Social Work and Families

When you ask people ’What do social workers do?” the average person will say something about social workers taking children away from their families. While that sometimes becomes a necessity, it is only partially true.

When children are in danger, abused, or neglected, a social worker may remove a child from the home, but for the most part, the goal of the social worker is to re-unite the family and hopefully give the parents skills and resources to learn how to parent. 

This area of Social work is called Child Protection or Child Welfare. Sometimes parents are simply repeating the patterns that they learned from their own parents and may not know what constitutes discipline. Or it is possible that parents may not have the skills to keep a safe environment for their children causing neglect. Social workers will work with the family to help create a secure and safe environment so that their children can stay in the home. It is possible that going back to the family is not an option, and in this case, social workers will find kinship care or foster families for the children.  Again, this is where social workers step in to help.  

There are many other areas where social workers work with families outside of Child Welfare.   For example, sometimes a family member will struggle with addiction. A social worker can assist in assessing for drug/alcohol addiction, referring to 12-step groups or they may use motivational interviewing to help the family member think through their issue. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) may also provide counselling to those who want to address their addiction through therapy.  

Social workers also help families who are in crisis.  For example, sometimes families experience extreme stress as a result of a death in the family, or perhaps because of a family member is struggling with a mental illness. Many times the family is in a state of crisis and social workers will help the family with coping strategies, mental health assistance, case-management, and give advice on resources in the community. Perhaps a family is dealing with poverty and a social worker can link them to services and assist families in figuring out if financial assistance is available.

The ways that social workers work with families is so broad. Social workers also work on a macro level to advance social welfare policies that ultimately impacts families. Social workers work as consultants on family policy, advocate at state and federal levels for changes in social policy and are involved in writing grant proposals to assist families in need.  

Published on August 18, 2017