Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shortage of Social Workers

The National Association of Social Workers released the results of a national study of licensed social workers. What do you think the study discovered? ...warn of an impending shortage of social workers... And who do you think will be most affected? ...the most vulnerable among us.

As a social worker, I nonetheless wonder how this is a bad thing, exactly. The field is staffed by aging boomers who are going to be retiring in the next 10-20 years. The ideological diversity of that group is slight. The range of the solutions they can generate runs from whether the local government should be responsive to whether the federal government should send money.

We got an update on suicidology at our social work department meeting. The national group which deals with this is deeply concerned about... credentialing of suicidologists. But their new catchphrase is "Suicide is everyone's business," which would seem contradictory at first, until you understand how human services advocates think. Everyone should care very deeply, and be aware of the problem - and make impassioned pleas when called upon. And as a result of this caring and awareness, they should respect the people who do this work and pay them handsomely.

I could have written that last paragraph about just about any area of need. ______ is everybody's business. And we're deeply concerned about credentialing. At the same time, we're very big on allowing people to make bad choices, but make society pay for it.

You will notice that all these important advocates for causes are not giving up their jobs speaking at conferences to alleviate the shortage of front-line workers. See my annoyance with advocacy here.

From what I can see, the younger social workers are far less ideological, more of a "Git 'er done" attitude to helping others. I like them. How they got through MSW programs, where the professors are all from my generation, and thus 60's retreads, I don't know. Academic social work is still little more than political training. But the new group seems more grounded.


Old Wacky Hermit said...

I'm afraid I don't understand much about social work, because my impressions of social workers are (a) that there are even more of them than there used to be and (b) most of them are intent on butting their noses into other people's business. I should note that when I formed that impression I didn't know you were a social worker. In fact I have to admit that it's largely based on a PBS documentary I watched that scared the crap out of me. It showed social workers for DCFS laughing and getting excited about taking kids away from their parents and homes because the homes were messy. I suppose it's difficult for some people to do their jobs unless they inject a little humor into it, but it scared the crap out of me that there exist social workers who would (a) have the power to take my kids away from me if my house was messy and (b) laugh about it. Rationally I know most social workers probably aren't like that, but then again most strangers aren't kidnappers and we still teach our kids not to talk to any strangers.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have mixed feelings on that. I don't have TV, so I never saw the special. I too have heard horror stories about state power via social workers, and suspect there's truth to it. Only two caveats.

1) Dark humor absolutely goes with my job. Student nurses are always appalled, and if we were filmed, we would all be fired. And we're the nice ones.

2) When the actions of state agencies are brought into the media, confidentiality rules usually prevent them from defending themselves in anything but the blandest terms.