Part 1. Articulate and Reflect on Your Professional Lens
Past Beliefs. People have different beliefs towards every profession, and social work practice is not an exception. In today’s society, social work practice is associated with various biases and misconceptions that have spread around the world. Although there may be variations in the way people perceive the field of social work practice in society, those misconceptions significantly affect social workers and their practice. The biases and misconceptions not only create a bad image of social workers but it also negatively impacts their morale at work. In the past, I used to believe that social work practice was a less paying field, however, that is not true. My perception was that social workers were individuals who volunteered to provide free social services to the general public, particularly the deprived backgrounds, thereby they would not get paid, or even if they were paid, they would get peanuts. I came to notice that social work practice is a profession of its own that involves qualified specialists such as medical workers, politicians, who deserved to be well-paid. Although social workers aim at helping individuals from deprived backgrounds, they deserve to be well-paid because they help to improve the general public’s welfare. Besides, I believed that social workers were uneducated and unskilled individuals who volunteered to help others because they had nothing to do at their homes. However, that is not true because these individuals are professionals who have sufficient knowledge and are skilled to engage in social work practice. To engage in social work practice, an individual is required to either possess a diploma or an undergraduate degree. Furthermore, I used to believe that social workers helped the government to delegate some social services to society, however, that is not true. I came to notice that social workers are professionals employed by the government not only to help individuals from deprived backgrounds to counter various life challenges but also to improve their welfare. Not only do they work for the government, but they also work for private organizations and not-for-profit organizations. Social work practice aims to help unprivileged individuals, rather than get money.
Others’ Perspective. The public also has various beliefs related to social work practice. After having discussions with my friends related to this issue, I came to realize that many people believe that social workers are family destroyers. Therefore, they have been termed by society as child snatchers. The reason for being termed child snatchers is because the public believes that social workers are usually up to no good when solving issues related to children who may have been victims of child maltreatment, abuse, and neglect (Canda, Furman, & Canda, 2019). The public believes that social workers usually intend to separate children from their parents or guardians, however, that is not true. The role of social workers in protecting children’s welfare is to first investigate an allegation of whether or not it is true. In case the allegation is true, social workers are required to come up with effective solutions to create a favorable environment where a child can grow and develop. Therefore, most social workers end up referring children to foster care agencies where they can be nurtured well. Besides, the public’s perspective about social work practice is that the profession is less paying. The public believes that social workers are usually driven by the desire to help, rather than get money. However, social work practice is a well-paying field that involves educated and skilled professionals who their desire is to help and earn a living. The public also believes that social work practice is an exhaustive professional as it involves a lot of paperwork (Beer, 2016). Yes, that is true as some of the social workers I interviewed in my neighborhood ascertained that information. However, they said that the practice is only exhaustive when a social worker has not managed his or her paperwork well. The public also believes that social workers do not usually have anything better to do with their lives, and that is why they usually volunteer to help others in managing various life challenges. That is not true, as social workers are well-educated and skilled professionals, who if they certainly had nothing to do with their lives, they could have not achieved a higher level of education. Rather, they could have just volunteered to help others out for free. Social workers are driven by the desire to help, but they also intend to earn a living from the practice to maintain their families just like any other professional.
Community Service. After having a walk around my neighborhood in Canada, I noticed that social workers deliver social services to the community based on their qualifications. Some of the social workers I noticed include children welfare social workers, medical social workers, and community development social workers. I noticed that the role of children’s welfare social workers was to protect children’s well-being in the community. They help children to manage various life challenges that may encounter at school, home, and around the community. Children’s welfare social workers tend to get financial and social support from the government, schools, and non-profit organizations. Besides, the role of medical social workers in the neighborhood was to help individuals from deprived backgrounds to manage various health-related issues (Chonody, Sultzman, & Hippie, 2019). I noticed they got financial and social support from the neighborhood hospitals and other health settings. Another type of social worker I noticed during my walk around the neighborhood is community-development social workers. The social workers were helping out in various activities such as cleaning the community, building homes for the homeless, among other things.
Despite playing major roles in helping the neighborhood community, I noticed that the social workers had negative beliefs when dealing with their clients. For instance, I noticed that social workers believed that individuals in the neighborhood were uneducated and unskilled individuals. However, this is not true. After interviewing a couple of people from the community, I find out many people had a diploma and undergraduate degrees in various fields, however, they were just unemployed. I also noticed that children’s welfare social workers had a belief that men were bad at child parenting. When solving divorce cases, they would suggest that children be put under women’s care because men would not properly nurture children. However, that is not true, as, in the modern era, most households share responsibilities and taking care of a child is not an exception. Therefore, I opine that men in the modern age have skills to properly nurture children.
As I walked through the neighborhood, I noticed some prominent social work agencies including CARE International Agency and Child Welfare League of Canada. The purpose of CARE International Agency in the neighborhood was to help women and girls to improve their well-being and lift their families from poverty and out of a crisis. CARE International agency advocated for the need of the community members to respect women’s and girls’ rights and give them equal opportunities in various fields such as education, social work practice, and others. The agency’s social workers opined a society is unable to improve the well-being of its members if it does not respect women’s and girls’ rights, and have equal opportunities. Besides, the purpose of the Child Welfare League of Canada in the neighborhood was to help protect children from maltreatment, abuse, and neglect. Although social workers in the neighborhood were termed as family destroyers, they had the desire to help unite families in cases of child abuse and neglect. I noticed that social workers from the Child Welfare League of Canada would have a major discussion about a child’s welfare in case an allegation of child abuse had been made to the agency. The family discussions aimed to find out if the allegations were true and help families to come up with effective solutions on how to properly nurture a child subjected to child abuse and maltreatment. In the process of interviewing social workers from the two agencies, I realized that the agencies incorporate the use of generalist skills. By utilizing generalist skills, I noticed that the social workers were focused on helping individuals manage various life challenges irrespective of the cultural and ethnic background. The aim was to improve the well-being of society in general.
I had a pleasant feeling by visiting various social care agencies in the neighborhood and associating with social workers of different expertise. My time in the area was enjoyable and I would love to go back some other time. No, it is not my first time to be in the area, as I had been there before academic work. Having been there before, I was aware of the social services the agencies offered to the community. The services have been of significant importance to the members of the community as they have helped improve the society’s well-being.
Important Values & Ideology. Social workers are required to have the desire to serve humanity and promote equity within a community. Besides, they are required to adhere to the professional code of ethics when providing social services to their clients. As a social worker, I need to have a desire to serve humanity. By doing so, I will be able to put the interests of my clients first before my own. As a social worker, I also need to be able to advocate for social justice. As a social worker, I have to recognize the need to help unprivileged and vulnerable populations such as the homeless. As a social worker, I have to comprehend the integral worth of each person, rather than judging them based on their ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Value Congruence. According to CASW/ACTS Guidelines for Ethical Practice, I have realized that we share the opinion that social workers should put their client’s interests first before their own. Section 1.1.1 of CASW/ACTS Guidelines for Ethical Practice specifies that social workers should maintain the best interests of their clients as a priority. The value is in line with my belief that satisfying the needs of clients first is more important than my interests as a social worker during practice. Besides, section 1.5 is in line with my belief that social workers should adhere to the professional code of ethics such as respecting the clients’ privacy (Canadian Association of Social Workers, 2005). The section highlights that social workers should respect clients’ right to privacy by not inquiring from them information that may not be relevant to the practice. I agree with that because I believe that clients deserve full respect from social workers. One value that I have had an experience with is the need for a social worker to act in the best interests of their client. A couple of years ago while at a hospital, a 90-year old woman with dementia was brought in. A medical social worker noticed that the hospital’s environment would negatively impact the woman’s mental and physical health and even worsen her situation. The medical worker then urged the woman’s family members to find an effective solution to help the patient, however, they were quick to say that they would not take her back home. Rather, they decided to leave the woman at the hospital. The medical worker decided to act to the best interests of the woman by transferring her to a better facility where her condition would be managed better.
Role Preparedness. Social workers assume various roles depending on their area of experience including roles of an advocate, lobbyist, mediator, enabler, among others. After an analysis of my skills, I found that they are in line with the roles of an enabler. The role of an enable is usually associated with various challenges such as dealing with stressful life situations including drug addictions amongst clients. To be confident in this role, I must get an undergraduate degree in psychology to enable me to help my clients to deal with various stressful life situations.
Theoretical Bias. In my opinion, the best model for social work practice is the psychosocial theory. The theory critiques that as an individual grows or develops, he or she experiences various challenges and adapts skills to solve such problems. Some of the challenges that an individual may experience in life involve issues related to trust versus trust, and intimacy vs isolation, among others. These challenges help individuals develop effective skills related to how they can react or adapt to various life challenges in case they experience them again, and how they relate to those around them. I have selected psychosocial theory because can help me a social worker to develop effective skills that I can use to solve various life challenges that clients may be experiencing.
Anti-Oppressive Understanding. A practice that is based on the process of social work practice and its primary aim is to end socioeconomic oppression in a community or society (Fraser, & Seymour, 2017). The anti-oppressive practice aims to challenge the existing social structures that might not be helping in improving a community’s welfare. However, many of those who engage in challenging the existing social structures that create socioeconomic oppression usually end up unsuccessful. Challenging of an existing social structure requires a professional who can examine power imbalance inherent in a community, and come up with effective strategies of how to end the inequalities.
Part 2. Interview a Social Worker
After visiting two social work agencies in the neighborhood, I had time to interview a child welfare social worker at the Child Welfare League of Canada. When I asked of his role at the agency, he said that his task was to protect children from various situations such as child abuse, maltreatment, and neglect. To achieve that, he had to investigate child maltreatment allegations and have a discussion with a particular family to come with effective solutions on how to properly nurture the child. When I asked the social worker about his opinion about the major causes of child abuse, he said that child maltreatment would by various factors such as poor parent-child relationships, poor physical and mental conditions amongst parents including depression. Regarding the social worker’s opinion about the future of social work, he asserted that child abuse cases would increase by 2030 and that the demand for social workers to intervene in such issues would increase by 20%.
In regards to the values used in the agency, the social worker informed me that the universal values of service to humanity were being used. The social worker told me that social work practice demanded the value of service to humanity, and that was the value every social worker in the agency tried to cultivate. That is, to be a social worker in the agency, one had to selfless. Concerning the theoretical perspective, the social worker told me that the agency integrated the use of the social constructionist view. According to Haslam, Cornelissen, and Werner, (2017), the social constructionist model asserts that human beings are social beings who interact with each other and the physical world based on shared meanings and understandings about the world. Human beings develop their opinions from social interactions, and their subsequent interactions are shaped by the understanding of various concepts (Haslam et al., 2017). The social worker opined that the theory was applied to the agency to encourage them to learn from each other and the world around them. In regards to how social work is practiced in their community, the social worker said that they usually get to listen to clients based on their opinions and views irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds when offering service to humanity. In regards to education, the social worker told me the requirements needed today for one to engage in social work practice were the same requirements needed before. For instance, he was required to have an undergraduate degree related to social work practice, and that is the requirement also needed today.
At the end of the interview, I learned that for an individual to be a social worker, he or she first needs to have the desire to provide service to humanity rather than getting money. Besides, I learned that the educational requirements that were needed in the past are the same requirements needed today for an individual to engage in social practice work. I also learned that social work practice is a profession like any other, thereby people should not have a perception that social workers are providing services to humanity because they do not have anything to do.
- What is the monthly income of social workers in Canada compared to other professions? The question is related to the public’s belief that social workers are not paid well.
- Why are social workers termed as family destroyers in Canada, yet their role is to help? The question is related to the public belief that social workers are child snatchers, and they tend to separate children from their parents by referring them to foster care agencies.
- Where do non-profit organizations get resources to help individuals from deprived backgrounds and pay their operational expenses? Although there are other institutions such as the government that support non-profit organizations, where do they get additional financial resources to pay out extra expenses such as wages.
Beer, O. W. J. (2016). Predictors of and Responses to Stress among Social Workers: A National Survey (Doctoral dissertation, PhD Thesis, University of Plymouth, Plymouth). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Oliver_Beer/publication/308612639_Predictors_of_and_Causes_of_Stress_Among_Social_Workers_A_National_Survey/links/580f97be08aee15d49120f61/Predictors-of-and-Causes-of-Stress-Among-Social-Workers-A-National-Survey.pdf
Canda, E. R., Furman, L. D., & Canda, H. J. (2019). Spiritual diversity in social work practice: The heart of helping. New York: Oxford University Press.
CASW/ACTS Guidelines for Ethical Practice (2005). Canadian Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from http://caswacts.ca/sites/default/files/attachements/CASW_Guidelines%20for%20Ethical%20Practice.pdf
Chonody, J. M., Sultzman, V., & Hippie, J. (2019). Are social work students concerned about the environment?: The role of personal beliefs. Journal of Social Work Education, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2019.1661907
Fraser, H., & Seymour, K. (2017). Understanding violence and abuse: an anti-oppressive practice perspective. Black Point, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing.
Haslam, S. A., Cornelissen, J. P., & Werner, M. D. (2017). Metatheories and metaphors of organizational identity: Integrating social constructionist, social identity, and social actor perspectives within a social interactionist model. International Journal of Management Reviews, 19(3), 318-336. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12150