Helping Humanity: Top 5 Challenges in Social Work Today

Home careIn the 21st Century, the field of social work is more advanced than ever. We have more knowledge of psychology, mental issues, and how to treat them. More importantly, it’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk about these issues, as well as problems in the home. However, with more societal advances come new sets of problems. Social workers are facing a new wave of issues today, here are just a few.

Limited Budgets and Employees

Robin McHaelen, executive director of True Colors in Hartford, says her office is under constant pressure to do more with less. Government budgets are constantly shrinking and non-profits do what they can on a year-to-year basis. While it’s possible – and encouraged, even – to get a degree in social work that specializes in adult mental health or children and families, many social workers run the gauntlet of all issues and cases once they’re in the field. While this is an opportunity for the employees as their experience rapidly grows in a short period of time, many organizations would prefer to have a few more sets of hands on the payroll.

Government Healthcare and Family Assistance Changes 

It seems like every congressional session another representative tries to cut food stamps. Knocking out one of the only legs many impoverished Americans have under them is seen as an effective way to balance the budget and teach people to pick themselves up when they’re down. Most recently, the rhetoric used was that people were using food stamps to buy luxury goods like crab legs and salmon.

People have also been wary about the Affordable Care Act and are worried that healthcare is still too expensive or not worth it. Social workers don’t have the resources to lobby for food stamps, but they do what they can. They also work with their cases to encourage them to sign up for healthcare to take care of their families.

PTSD Cases from 9/11 and the Middle East

Many social workers have to work with multiple family members and understand different aspects of the field to help a case. This is partly because adult mental illness and PTSD are better understood and acknowledged, but also has to do with 9/11 and returning military members.

Oftentimes PTSD and trauma cases require long-term therapy, and as patients get married and start families, there are new challenges to overcome. The social worker has to understand PTSD, along with family counseling and child well being in order to help one family maintain a certain level of stability. Like the budget section mentioned above, one person has to wear many hats and be an expert in many specialties.

Social Media Ethics

Social media presents two major issues for social workers, one old and one new. The old one is the issue of maintaining the professional relationship. If your patient adds their social worker on Facebook, it crosses a border into their personal life. It allows the patient to see what the social worker’s significant other, kids, and friends are like. Conversely, it also lets the social worker look into the life of his or her patient.

It’s this second point that leads into the new issue. When should a social worker invade the privacy of a patient by following their Internet presence? Kathryn Chernack, director of clinical services at St. Christopher Ottilie Family of Services, suggests reserving use of social media unless the patient is an emergency situation, if they’re suicidal for example.

Our 24-Hour Connected Lifestyle

One of the main issues that social workers have always faced is turning off work when they got home. After seeing a day of domestic abuse cases, it’s hard to be happy and spend time with family. This is even harder with the Internet, where checking email for updates is just a few clicks away. Social workers need to have a solid work-life balance established if they’re going to make it today.

The field of social work gets rocked by the trends of current affairs, politics, and society. Social workers do their best to hold on for the good of their field and the stability of their patients. 


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