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Why do Social Workers have a Negative Rep?

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 My thoughts are: most people who come across those in the "profession" are not social workers at all although perhaps they carry the title. These are actually para-professionals who lack true skill and training in the field of Social Work. Due to lack of funding, scant grant monies, poor work environment overall, etc......those that carry the tittle of social worker are in fact rarely degreed and therefore lack the ability to be true helpers. They give the Profession of Social Work a negative reputation. Thoughts? 

The Truth About Social Work

What people think they know about social work is often a myth, according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Contrary to popular belief, social workers are trained professionals who have bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees –- they are not social services employees, caseworkers or volunteers. Only a fraction of social workers are employed in public or child welfare, and social workers are the nation's largest providers of mental health and therapy services.

"The diversity of roles for social workers is enormous," says Ruth W. Mayden, MSS, former president of the NASW and former dean of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia.

Social workers practice in a wide variety of settings, and their presence is constantly evolving. According to Mayden, five arenas in which the demand for social workers is growing are:

  • Aging: As the population of elderly Americans explodes in coming decades, social workers with expertise in gerontology will keep busy. They'll provide counseling to seniors, help them maintain their independence at home, plan for future care and generally help improve their quality of life.
  • Human Resources: Businesses hire occupational social workers to help manage on-site workplace conflict and to make workplaces safer and more family-friendly. A growing practice area for occupational social workers is in employee assistance programs.
  • Schools: Social workers are often part of the interdisciplinary teams that school systems set up to help children with emotional, developmental or educational needs. Some schools now serve as community centers and offer classes and social services for adults, too, which is spurring further demand for school social workers.
  • Healthcare: Social workers are vital members of the healthcare team in many hospitals and clinics. Licensed clinical social workers provide direct counseling services; other social workers serve as patient advocates by coordinating medical and emotional treatment, managing services a patient may require for recovery and planning for care after hospitalization.
  • Institutional Giving: Corporations that place an emphasis on employee volunteerism and community service are hiring social workers to coordinate their efforts. Private foundations with money earmarked for community development also place a premium on social workers because of their inside knowledge of worthy causes.

Despite the diversity of settings, the common thread joining all social workers is their motivation, Mayden says. Social workers are part of a professional community "dedicated to social justice and empowerment," she explains. "It's not about the individual, but about how the individual can use his or her skills and talents to help other individuals or communities grow and thrive."

"As social workers, we view clients within their own environments," adds Miriam Oliensis-Torres, MSW, co-owner of Geriatric Support Associates in Milwaukee. "That's one of the things I like most about social work. We get to approach situations from a holistic perspective."

Would You Make a Good Social Worker?

According to veteran social workers Oliensis-Torres and Mayden, you'll succeed in the field if you have:

  • The ability to accept (and not judge) people who are different from yourself.
  • Patience and a sense of humor.
  • An interest in the dynamics of interpersonal and organizational relationships.
  • An interest in social policy.
  • The capacity to be self-critical and always alert as to whether you're taking the proper steps on a client's behalf.
  • Good listening skills.
  • The ability to put situations in perspective, which will help you avoid burnout.
by on May. 1, 2013 at 7:35 PM
Replies (11-20):
by Gold Member on May. 1, 2013 at 10:17 PM
2 moms liked this
I think a lot of people don't realize that social workers don't just work for CPS. They work at hospitals, businesses, work with people after natural disasters, and with veterans and their families, and much, much more. I want to be a social worker, my goal is to become one within the next five years. I'm not weird, but can definitely be passionate about things.

Apart from not really knowing what a social worker does, they are often overworked when working for the CPS, the turnover can be high so they are most likely not working with many quality experienced social workers, which makes the job even more stressful. Some are awful. Some can't defend themselves so we only hear one side.
by Bronze Member on May. 1, 2013 at 10:59 PM
1 mom liked this

I was told by many a person even my son's Social workers I make a good one .   I care about people generally want to help out. My best friendwas one he was darn decent one . I do tihnk CPS gives the whole field a very very bad name. CPS is has been used as weapon by people just sad.  Not everybody in CPS is bad you know.  Alot of people   help out people with,  resources and such. So many thing's.

I think SOical workers have,  a very very hard job...

by on May. 1, 2013 at 11:08 PM
1 mom liked this

I have never met a smart social worker, and I knew many with their masters. 

by on May. 1, 2013 at 11:13 PM

Quoting Sisteract:

I work with many social workers. My niece is a LCSW.

I have nothing but admiration for MSWs- the waiting list for degree program admissions is quite long.

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by on May. 1, 2013 at 11:14 PM
1 mom liked this
I suspect the negative perception is indicative of a lack of understand of what they truly do.
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by Ruby Member on May. 2, 2013 at 7:53 AM

 Have you ever considered that the true person at "fault" is the parent who is beating the child in the first place. That social workers do the 'dirty work" when no one else would- there is a power greater than the social worker that requires them by law to return the child back to a home. That their "arrogant" attitude you perceive is actually frustration at working in a system where they are trying to do good with parents who are cruel and a beuacracy that is broken. 

Quoting meriana:

The social workers I've run into have been arrogant and had the attitude that one should simply do as they say because they know best. They've also pretty much tended to make mountains out of mole hills. Oh and then there was the one who KNOWINGLY sent foster kids back to the exact same environment they were taken out of in the first place: still drinking alcoholic mom, living with the man the state had proof he had molested the girls on several occasions. Yep, gotta love those social workers...NOT


by Ruby Member on May. 2, 2013 at 7:55 AM

 Why did you have that reaction do you think? Did yout hink she was there to take your baby? WEhy would you think that (if you did)? Was she helpful to you in linking you with services? 

Quoting kailu1835:

I don't know, but I know when a woman walked into my room after I had just had my baby the night before, an introduced herself as a social worker, I swear my arms clenched just a little bit tighter around my baby. Lol turns out she was there to offer me a pamphlet about wic.


by Ruby Member on May. 2, 2013 at 8:00 AM


Quoting turtle68:

IMO social workers take things too personal and that to me is a downfall. Perhaps because for the client base they work with, it IS personal to them(the client).

All those Ive met are either totally inept Burn out rate is high-most social workers don;t last past 7 years or overly passionate They are still young and have dreams of saving the world like any young person starting in a field; but that doesn;t last long (see prior statement) .

One thing they all have in common....

long skirts with books, short quirky hairdo's, black rim (or red) glasses, a large silk scarf... Seriously? Most of those that I know wear pants, have ALL sorts of hairstyles , wear glasses as needed and a scarf?-I got nothin' .....that's just silly

oh and the ability to nod a lot. They are trying to not just listen but to hear you.


by Ruby Member on May. 2, 2013 at 8:04 AM

 I bet you have and never even knew it!

(HINT: it was the person who was listening to your needs and trying to be helpful)

Quoting stacymomof2:

I don't think I have ever met a social worker.  I did think they had degrees.


by Ruby Member on May. 2, 2013 at 8:13 AM
1 mom liked this

 Some who carry the title 'social worker" are not necessarily degreed; aside from perhaps college but this may not be a degree in social work at all! These workers tend to be those first-line workers, sometimes (most times) the CPS workers who begin working at a low level and rank up through seniority. Many of them are not even licensed.

To find out if someone really is a "Social Worker" you must ask if they have a MSW and if they are licensed by their state to practice. The license could be LCSW, LSW or CSW. And social workers typically work with populations who are in the most need for services but who are also the most resistant to those same services they desperately need.  

Quoting lga1965:

 Yes, that's what I said, that I thought they had a least one...which was the case back in 1960 when I went to college..

It seems that some have a bad attitude toward Social Workers, Medical professionals...anyone with a degree or advanced degrees and I am finding that hard to understand.

Quoting Sisteract:

Licensed social workers have Master's Degrees

Quoting lga1965:

 I didn't know they had a negative rep. Hmmm?

I thought Social Workers had a degree. I respect and admire social workers because they try to help people and too often the people they are trying to help are suspicious and hostile toward them . I was told when I was a senior in high school that my personality tests indicated I would be a great social worker and it appealed to me but I am glad I didn't pursue it. It's too dangerous nowdays.



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