An elderly woman with a serious mental health condition lived alone in an apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with no running water or lights. One of her children had taken her money. It took a neighbor’s call to the city to find people willing to help.
Social workers came to the rescue, locating a new home that could accommodate her and enlisting another family member to provide care.
“When people come to us, they are facing barriers that they can’t deal with on their own,” said Loretta Williams, who oversees social workers in the City of Bridgeport Office for Persons with Disabilities. “Being able to respond to that and have a positive outcome—that’s the reward in itself. I think that it’s a blessing to work for people to serve the needy. And be able to get paid? That’s a double blessing.”
History of Social Work
Social work started in the nineteenth century as a movement in the United States and United Kingdom. As feudalism ended, some saw the poor as a threat to social order. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act in the UK aimed to transfer unemployed rural workers to the cities, where they would be housed and fed in exchange for their labor in workhouses.
Child and family social workers will be in demand to help families strengthen their parenting skills, solve familial problems, and prevent neglect or child abuse. Although more school social workers will be needed as student enrollments continue to grow, limited state and local funding may hinder employment growth slightly for K–12 school settings, according to the BLS.
BLS data shows that there will be plentiful job opportunities for social workers trained to help patients with medical concerns, including patients who are elderly. As the baby boomer population continues to age, medical social workers will be in demand to help them and their families find appropriate health care.
Email is being used as a therapeutic tool and specialized smartphones are helping patients record and send information about their moods to their clinicians and caseworkers, receive therapeutic messages and alerts, and communicate digitally with others who face similar challenges, the article states.
For those patients who aren’t tech-savvy, social workers can bring the tech – a tablet or a webcam, for instance – to their home or a local health care provider’s office and set them up to connect for future remote social work calls, or with health and mental health specialists located in urban medical centers. The telehealth visits can replace in-person appointments that might have required a long and in some cases difficult trip for sicker patients, such as those with cancer or late-stage Alzheimer’s.
NASW, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA) have developed the Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice. These standards aim to help social workers do the following:
maintain and improve the quality of technology-related services they provide
incorporate technology into their services
monitor and evaluate the ways technology is used in their services
inform clients, government regulatory bodies, insurance carriers, and others about the professional standards for the use of technology in the provision of social work services
How to Become a Social Worker
The first step is to get a degree. Many social workers hold at least a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited social work school. Students who enroll in a Master of Social Work (MSW) program are usually required to complete an internship, practicum, or field education in order to work in the field.
An MSW degree qualifies social workers to become a licensed master social worker (LMSW). Many LMSWs work in non-clinical roles, such as case management or policy issues. Some social workers go on to complete at least two to three years of supervised clinical social work and pursue licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) licensure.
The LSCW is the highest level of licensure available to clinical social workers, although some states use different titles, including licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW). A clinical social worker typically addresses problems with individuals or families including drug or alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, or serious illness. Because they can practice independently, they are often found in private practice settings or at schools, hospitals, or community mental health agencies.
Learn more about earning your MSW online from the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service.