Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy National Social Work Month!

March is National Social Worker Month, so I couldn't let the opportunity go by to say how glad I am to be a social worker!

I found Social Work pretty late in my undergrad life (second semester Junior year!) but made a mad dash with a crazy course load so that I could graduate with this degree.  I learned so many practical skills in my SW classes, and I'm so proud to be a social worker.

I'll share with you an article I wrote for our college newspaper (the fantastic Kentucky Kernel) because I was slightly more articulate and less tired 4 years ago... 

Full text after the jump!

Do you know what a social worker does? Unless you’re majoring in social work, you probably don’t. When I tell people I’m a social worker, the most common response is: “Wow. I could never take people’s children away.” Guess what? Neither could I. But I could be a mental health counselor or work with rape victims. I could help teenage mothers or assist patients who have Alzheimer’s. I could work at a hospital or a school, or I could set up my own practice.

It’s probably safe to say that many of you interact with social workers quite frequently and don’t even know it. If you volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, your case manager is probably a social worker. If you used the family resource center at your elementary school, you probably worked with a social worker. If someone in your family gets sick, the person at the hospital who coordinates all the
services he or she will need upon release is a social worker.

If social workers are everywhere, doing a little bit of everything, why don’t you see them? Why does the stereotype of taking away children persevere, even when reality paints a different picture? And why don’t more individuals, especially those interested in counseling, choose social work as a career path?

The second thing someone will say to you after you say you are a social work major is: “You know you won’t make any
money, right?” Thanks, Einstein, but I knew that already. Is the poor pay one of the reasons people avoid this career?
Probably. Social workers are performing crucial jobs in society - why are they so underpaid?

The same bleeding hearts that encourage people to become social workers in the first place are what prevent them from
demanding larger salaries. In almost any other field, individuals do not work for less than they are worth; but in social work, it seems selfish to demand any more money than you are originally offered. After all, any money that an agency allocates to your salary is money that is not
put directly into services for clients.

But it is not selfish for social workers to demand a higher salary or otherwise equal compensation. It is impossible for a social worker with an enormous caseload to be effective in his or her work without adequate compensation. The most qualified individuals may not be taking some social work jobs because they cannot support themselves or their families on the salary. Social workers are client services, and
paying them does not take away from what clients receive. In fact, paying a competent and qualified social worker
increases client services.

In order for employees to feel valued and respected, it is necessary that they be paid according to what they are worth. To do so, that more resources should be allocated to social programs in the first place. Too many social workers are working in conditions where they lack the
necessary monetary, in-kind and personnel resources to help their clients and best accomplish the agency’s mission. So is it just the selflessness of social workers that prevents them from being paid what they deserve? Absolutely not.

Our current capitalist society discourages social programs - and when individuals disrespect social programs as a whole, they are also disrespecting the careers of social workers. Social programs in our society go beyond the welfare or child protection system. Social services - such as rape-crisis services, mentoring programs, job-placement programs and mental-health services - are for individuals of all
income levels.

Social workers deserve more respect - and it’s high time that our society help them do their jobs of helping others.If you are interested in mental health counseling, explore social work as a path to achieving that career. If you are working in the business world, make sure your corporation is donating to social-services agencies. Your used computers and other office supplies are like gold to non-profit

If we are going to help the people in our society who are in need, it is crucial that we have the resources to do so, both monetary and human. Social work is a difficult career path, but one that is chosen because of the tremendous difference one can make in the community and beyond. If you don’t choose this path, do your part and support the people who do.

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