What Do Social Workers Do?

What do social workers do?

Social workers are a diverse group of professionals who share a commitment to helping enhance the well-being of people, communities, and society. They have a rich history of striving for social, economic, and environmental justice, advocating for human rights, competently providing services for clients at every stage of life, and engaging in lifelong learning.

Defining what social workers do can be difficult because they work in a wide range of situations. Examples of key tasks include:
  • Identifying individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities in need of help
  • Assessing clients’ needs, environments, strengths, and support networks to help them identify their goals
  • Providing psychotherapy services
  • Researching, referring, and advocating for community resources, such as nutrition assistance or child care
  • Developing and evaluating programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met
  • Advocating for policy change on the local, state, and federal levels
  • Working on interprofessional teams and leading organizations to fulfill their mission and goals
  • Organizing groups, task forces, and communities for social change events and movementsCongress-(5).jpg
You can find social workers in a wide variety of environments, including a few surprising ones highlighted below. 

Library Social Workers

“I believe that [the library social workers] are going to be such a critical part of providing support to the community. They’ll be flexible and be able to focus on doing what people need and getting them to the appropriate places,” shared Pahoua Yang, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation vice president of community mental health and wellness.

Social Workers and the Police Department

“We are willing to forge nontraditional partnerships that work to decrease crime in our city,” Rick Smith, chief of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department said. “People who don’t have their basic needs met will always look for alternative means. The KCPD is striving to assist with those alternative means, as opposed to criminal means.”

Social Workers on Capitol Hill

“In 1968, a young social worker with a big voice stood up to Baltimore’s old-boy political machine. Her goal: to save two communities from being plowed under to make way for a 16-lane freeway through the heart of her city. She won that fight and, in the years that followed, she’d battle many more times for her city, state and country.”