I interviewed a social work from the local department of social services. She agreed to sit down with me and answer all of my questions which included everything from asking her about her reasons for choosing social work to what a typical day looks like for her. I found her responses to be frank and candid, and I appreciated her honesty. This interview was pivotal for me as it made me realize just how much I desire to be a social worker and devote my life to helping those who are unable to help themselves. I especially want to focus on Child Protective Services because those children are often in unfortunate or debilitating circumstances and need someone to be their Voice.
Question: Why did you decide to become a social worker?
Answer: “I became a social worker because I had a friend in high school who had been abused by her stepfather for years, and no one knew about it. He was physically and verbally abusive, and he even put her in the hospital for several days when we were in the ninth grade, but she was never taken out of the home. She moved in with my family during her senior year the minute she turned eighteen. Thank goodness she had us because she had no resources to help her other than my family.
That made me wonder about other children out there who are so desperately in need of resources to escape family conditions that are horrible. When I went to college, I started thinking that I would like to spend my life helping others help themselves, and I knew that becoming a social worker would enable me to do that. I knew that by being a social worker, I could point people in the right direction for services and resources such as counseling. As trite as it sounds, from the moment I decided to become a social worker, I knew that I could make a difference in someone”s life.
Question: What kind of education do you have to have in order to become a social worker?
Answer: First of all, you have to earn an undergraduate degree in any discipline. Mine just happens to be in sociology and psychology. In reality though, you could get your undergraduate degree in English but still go on to become a social worker. It is imperative to make exceptional grades so that you make yourself competitive to be accepted into a graduate degree program. I have my master”s degree which allows me to be eligible for licensure in all 50 states. A master”s degree also arms me with a broader scope of knowledge with which to help my clients. When applying for a master”s program, it is imperative that the institution be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
I knew that I wanted to work for Social Services in helping children, and I felt that having fieldwork experience with that as part of a Master”s degree program would be most beneficial. By having my advanced level degree, I always have the option of going out on my own and opening my own social work office. Right now, I am happy doing what I am doing, but maybe in the future I will open my own office and go into private practice. Having a Master”s degree definitely gives you more options with your career path. After I graduated from undergrad and then graduate school, I worked under the supervision of a licensed social worker for two years to learn the ropes, so to speak. He guided me and taught me a tremendous amount. After that, I sat for the ASWB master”s exam for licensure.
Question: Do you ever have to testify in court?
Answer: Yes, unfortunately, I often have to testify in court as the child”s advocate. That is the reason note taking during my investigations is so crucial. I never lose sight of the fact that what I say on the witness stand is to help the child.
Question: What is a typical day for you?
Answer: First of all, the paperwork is unrelenting and places a lot of stress on me. I seem to never finish the paperwork, so I often stay up late at night to finish paperwork only to come in early the next morning to see my desk piled high with even more paperwork. I usually put in an hour or so early every morning working on the never ending paperwork. I then listen to any voice mails that may have come in and attend to answering my emails. My first client appointment is usually at 8:30. On office days-when I am in the office- I have clients scheduled back to back, and depending on the caseload, that may be as many as six clients or as few as two clients. On days that I am in the field visiting clients, I try to make at least eight home visits. I work in court appearances as needed, but I usually have court at least three Wednesdays out of the month. I scarf down lunch quickly-either between clients or while I am on the road. My day usually ends around 5 p.m., and then I may spend another hour catching up on paperwork. When I finally leave to go home, I almost always have a briefcase full of work to catch up on.
Question: What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
Answer: Overall, my job is rewarding, and I feel that I am making a difference in the lives of my clients. The difficulty comes when I have to make a recommendation to the court to remove a child from his parents. Even though it may be the best thing for the child in the long run, he still cries and is visibly upset. It is also difficult to walk into a home visit and see squalid conditions in which some people think it is fit to raise a child.
Question: How much does a licensed social worker make in a year?
Answer: The answer to this is largely dependent on a number of factors including experience, job location and education. Coming right out of school with no experience, I made $27,000 per year. I have been a social worker for 12 years now and make a little over $45,000 per year. I could make more if I went into practice for myself. Had I not gotten a master”s degree, my pay would be less, so I am glad that I spent that extra two years to obtain my master”s.