March is Social Work Month: Here's a look at all the ways social workers contribute to children's mental health!
March 20, 2018
March is Social Work Month and this year’s theme is Bringing Change to Life. It made me think about the myriad ways in which social workers contribute to the mental health of children and youth.
When it comes to child and youth social work, there are the obvious players, such as school social workers who assist children dealing with issues that impact their education – from individual learning difficulties to family problems and bullying. The other immediate link is made to social workers in child protection services. Often we think of child protection social workers as being investigators of abuse, but they are also important agents of change. They focus on child well-being and how to keep children in their homes and families together more often than not – for which they often don’t get credit.
We often think of social workers in community-based agencies such as Wood’s Homes who focus on providing holistic services for children and their families, from immediate crisis intervention and long-term approaches, to family- and campus-based care.
“Social workers have the privilege of being with the individuals we serve through the truly raw and vulnerable experiences in their life. Luckily, this means we play a vital role in the growth, development and connection experienced by young people and their families as they face and conquer their everyday battles. We walk hand-in-hand with them through this often terrifying, but life-changing experience.”
Less considered, perhaps, is the role that social workers play within hospital settings, assisting families who deal with acute trauma, long-term illness or disability. These are social workers who also see a lot of children, often at very heightened moments of difficulty in their lives. They might work in emergency, the psychiatric unit or even in neonatal clinics. Social workers are everywhere, from the moment we enter this world to the time that we leave it – from celebrating birth to grieving a loss.
Finally, it’s important to remember the social workers on the frontlines of our social assistance agencies who ensure that children have a safe place to sleep and food on the table.
Social workers can work in youth drop-in centres, support centres for newcomers, and in justice settings with both victims and perpetrators of crimes. Most of this work involves children and youth.
“Social work helped me understand that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. When we look beyond behaviour or the ‘identified individual’, and include the impact of environment (school, family, culture, community, etc.), we build compassion, reduce judgment and create effective intervention.”
“Working with youth and witnessing their resiliency never ceases to amaze me, and it has become something I deeply admire. This admiration goes beyond the profession of social work and brings a perspective into my life that cannot be easily dismissed.”
“Being a social worker at Wood's Homes is an interesting experience, one that brings increasingly complex challenges that push you to your absolute limit. It has also allowed for some remarkably unique insights; having the privilege to learn from youth throughout the agency has had a profound effect on not only my practice, but on my life as a whole.”