Social workers identify individuals and groups in need of support and assess requirements and circumstances to create support systems for clients facing difficulties.
But the advocacy of social workers also extends on a macro level. After all, social justice is the foundation of the social work profession. In other words, social workers also deal with systemic issues such as inequality, racism, and poverty. Through this advocacy, social workers strive to ensure access to required information, resources, and services.
In doing so, they can improve conditions and alleviate the impact of social injustice by assisting vulnerable individuals. If that sounds confusing, keep scrolling as this article tackles the role of social workers in systemic issues and the strategies they implement to fight injustice through advocacy and policy reform.
Although the list of social issues in the US is a long and painful one, living in poverty is a constant theme running through many of the nation’s problems.
Social workers offer help to the poor on the micro and macro levels. More often than not, they implement specific principles learned while earning their online MSW advanced standing from a revered academic institution, such as Cleveland State University. These principles help in understanding and alleviating poverty, and include empowerment, sustainability, self-reliance, and participation.
It starts by identifying the children, women, seniors, and marginalized groups at risk. By having daily involvement with at-risk populations, social workers can view issues firsthand and work to find comprehensive solutions. While their techniques vary, some of the approaches they use include:
- Community practice: This calls for social workers to assist individuals in identifying their resources and ability to impact and create positive change. In this approach, a social worker combines work with families and individuals with community work to enhance resources and opportunities.
- Community development: This involves looking for or establishing financial opportunities for impoverished clients through work on job placement, training, local business development, and job security.
- Individual intervention: This prompts social workers to look for creative and innovative ways to assist individuals in understanding their situation and changing their behavior.
By implementing these strategies, social workers can make groundbreaking progress toward economic justice development and suggest possible changes to specific social policies that affect the poor. Social workers advocate for individuals to gain greater access to education, housing, and employment to reduce poverty, as these are often the primary causes.
As part of their work, social workers must help individuals experiencing racism in their local communities by raising awareness and promoting racial equity. For racial equality to be achieved, this is both a matter of social problems and of institutional issues; often the infrastructure of communities (police, governments, healthcare) can be the ones doing the most harm against minorities. Social workers can be part of the movement to reduce institutionalized and other forms of racism.
So, what are the strategies social workers implement to fight off racism? Like everything else, approaches can vary depending on the environment. Social workers can identify behaviors and learning opportunities at each societal level that can be used to dismantle racism, such as individual growth, group interaction, and large-scale systems or policies.
On a micro level, social workers implement strategies, such as speaking up about racial injustice, micro-aggressions, and racism, to encourage change.
On a mezzo level, they identify the unjust and address them as a group. Although strategies differ depending on the communities with which they are working, social workers usually organize anti-racism events and educate communities on how racism affects the health of those around them.
Meanwhile, on the macro level, social workers often work with government officials, journalists, and the media to support and promote racial justice in their state or community. This means participating in protests, petitions, and elections promoting social and racial justice. In this way, they can make high-level changes that impact everyone.
By implementing multiple techniques at different societal levels, social workers can change people’s racial stereotypes and attitudes to achieve a more equitable society. On top of everything else, it also establishes the right benchmarks to lift all populations and ensure no one is excluded from the opportunities the Great American nation has to offer.
Mental health issues are more common than you may think in the US. According to recent data, one in five American adults has a mental health issue, such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
What makes it worse is nearly half of adults and children with mental health issues go without treatment according to a recent CNN report. So, where does social work fit into this. After all, aren’t mental health issues treated by physicians, psychiatrists, and medical professionals?
Not necessarily. In fact, many patients with depression do not need a psychiatrist. As mentioned above, advocacy is the pillar of social work. Part of this advocacy is giving a voice to the underserved and individuals who are marginalized, like those suffering from a mental health problem.
While there are no standard approaches to advocating for individuals living with mental health issues, social workers often work with policymakers and government officials to find ways to support them. Since social workers work directly with these individuals, they can relate experiences of how current policies are impacting mentally-challenged individuals.
Furthermore, social workers can raise mental health awareness by educating the community about mental health. For example, it can provide information and resources about mental health to help everyone understand the importance of seeking help. By creating open discussions, social workers can make mental health less intimidating to everyone while prompting those who need help to seek one.
Working towards a better world starts by dealing with the systemic issues plaguing society. As a social worker, you will be at the forefront of these issues, and will be an advocate for the people. This will help to enable positive change in the world.