Where is Your Superhero?

A family, being brought back together again. The hand in this photo represents a social worker, the person that “holds” the family together.

Sometimes in life we all need a hero, someone to help us in our worst times of life. We need someone who will jump at any given moment to help us and provide us with the best resources, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who is not scared to take on challenges. You would never think that we have so many of those people around us today, those people are known as social workers.

In the United States, we have six thousand social workers (TED Talk) and that number will be increasing throughout the years to come (BLS Social Workers). When most people hear the term social worker, they often only think about their role in a home, including me. However, when my college career began, I started to look for what major would be best for me, since I am undeclared at the moment. After much research, I found the major of human resources and had a clear interest in social workers. I learned that not only do social workers work in a home; they also work in schools, help people who have been diagnosed with chronic, life-threating diseases, and there are addiction and mental health social workers. Although there are many different areas of studies, all social workers focus on the same thing, helping people in need and trying to get them to their best potential.

Mother and father not able to repair something on their own, resulting in their daughter in distress. This image connects the ideas of Spelman and a broken household.

In Spelman’s book Repair, she goes into great detail about different types of repair in every situation. Throughout the book, she reminds the reader that repair is a healing process. Everybody in their on way approaches a time in their life where they need to be repaired, mentally or physically. Sometimes those challenges are not fixable within our self, which is when our hidden superheroes, social workers, help us. While reading Spelman’s book, I noticed a clear relationship between Spelman’s examples and the role of social workers. Spelman talks about repair in a household and how a mother and a father both have a role in repair. This proposed the question, what happens when a mother and a father are not able to repair something on their own? Social workers take the parents challenges and responsibilities into their own hands and find the best outcome, for everyone. Spelman proposed an interesting idea to me and made me think further about repair in the household. After reading Spelman’s book, it became apparent to me that Spelman’s ideas apply to many different life experiences, including those of a social worker.

To be a social worker, you have to go through a very specific learning system in college where you will learn many things. The two biggest things, they learn their mission and how to make change happen (TED Talk). Students of social work with a bachelor’s degree become prepared for positions such as a caseworker or mental health assistant. Throughout these programs, students learn about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy and ethics in social work. However, if you obtain your master’s degree, it prepares you for work in a chosen specialty (BLS Social Work). In 2015, more than 500 bachelor’s degree programs and more than 200 master’s degree programs were accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Also, social workers learn and obtain important qualities for their job. They have to have communication skills to listen and understand someone’s needs, empathy to develop strong relationships, interpersonal skills to have healthy and productive relationships with the people they work with, organizational skills to organize different clients files, problem-solving skills to develop practical and innovative solutions, and time-management skills to provide equal service to all of their patients (BLS Social Work). In the hyperlink above, it lists more skills and qualities all social workers need to acquire. It evaluates and goes into more depth about what qualities they need and how they will be applied. Social Workers obtain and specific set of skills to be the great people they are to us today.

Social workers ultimate goal, bringing everyone together.

Even though social workers have a variety of different skills, they all work together in the specializations of a social worker. Included in this hyperlink are the goals and main specifications of the job of the social worker. It goes off the more broad explanation of what they do, and opens up new ideas about social workers. There are three main specializations, which include, family, child or school social work, public health social workers, and addictions and mental health social workers. Family, child or school social work involves improving the social and psychological function of children and their families. They help parents, find foster homes, arrange adoptions and acknowledge abuse. A social worker that primarily works in a school will address bad behavior, teenage pregnancy, drug use and poor academics. They propose ideas to teachers on how to help a child in need and together they do all they can to assist a child (Understanding the Role of a Social Worker). Next, public health social workers assist people who have a life-threatening diseases or disorders. They will find different resources for the patient and their families to learn how to cope. Social workers try their best to ease the pain of the patient’s illness because they understand how hard it could be for them. Most of these social workers are located in hospitals, health care centers and living homes. In these locations they can find services to give family care givers, provide patient education and counseling, hospital discharge, and organizing support groups for everyone involved (Understanding the Role of a Social Worker). Lastly, addiction and mental health social workers give support and services for people with unhealthy habits. They find places that teach healthier behaviors to encourage a patient to get back to where they began. Patients that deal with addiction also deal with mental and emotional issues. However, social workers do not work alone. Specifically for children, they have to contact government and safety officials for the child’s best interest. As stated in the novel, “In order to protect children from abuse and neglect, this agency supports the identification and reporting of such endangered children to the proper government authorities (Besharov, 1985, Page 170).” Since social work has a tremendous toll on the social worker themselves, government officials help them and the children in danger. Social workers find the best resources for people who face difficulties throughout their life, whether its therapy or government ordered techniques. No matter what, they always try their best to mend a broken family. Families and people today would be lost and without resources without a social worker.

In a case study, there was a family of four. Bridget who was in her late twenties, John who is in his early thirties, Jayden who is a junior school age, and Erin who is a primary school age. Social services became involved when they questioned if the children were at risk of physical abuse. At first, John was against the idea of a social worker, however one of a social workers qualities is to build a good relationship and trust, which is exactly what she did. Eventually, John ended up in prison, but the social worker doesn’t just stop there. She met with the agencies involved with the family, met with the mother and the children to console and provide therapy for the family. After John’s release, the worker spoke to both parents about their parenting techniques to continue their relationship with one another and the children. John was admitted to a domestic violence program, anger-trigger program, and alcohol awareness. The social worker continued to work with the family for months following to ensure that everything was well. After 10 months, they found an amazing result of the family and the social workers help. John changed his behavior through his counseling and one-to-one sessions; he became a mentor to others in these situations, and finally worked to receive a full-time job. The wife, Bridget, has her confidence and independence back and has also been in full-time employment. Lastly, both children are in school full-time and healthy. The family would have not been repaired if it weren’t for the social worker, because they couldn’t handle this on their own. Sometimes it’s okay to ask for help so someone can finally be repaired again.

In this broken family, it was clear that the mother and father were not able to fix their issues on their own. Instead, a social worker intervened and made the family whole again. This proposes back to the idea of Spelman’s book, Repair. One chapter that created the most interest towards the idea of social work was The Household as a Repair Shop. This chapter stood out to me the most throughout the whole book because I observed Spelman’s view of the household while also relating it back to my own household. Spelman created different ideas of repair through this chapter and how humans can repair back to themselves and back to their relationships with other people. Spelman states,

When, then, we think about the work of the household as including the repair of humans from the wear and tear of everyday life, where repairing means restoring them to some kind of functional state, we surely ought to ask whether repairing them to be able to function in some ways is compatible with repairing them to be able to function in others. (Spelman Page 37).
This image depicts what the person being healed by a social worker looks like prior, distressed and unrepairable.

Spelman creates great thoughts about humans and the struggles of their everyday life, but who is repairing them back to their functional state? This quote from Spelman is when I thought about social workers, and how they are the ones to repair humans. Spelman also goes into detail about how a mother is supposed to repair the relationships in the household while the father repairs the material items. While thinking about the case study, the mother and father were not capable of doing any repair themselves, and they needed a social worker to get them back to a functional state. Also while reading this chapter, I thought about my own family and life and it proposed a number questions to me. What if something tragic happened? Who would fix your family? I knew immediately a social worker would still take on these challenges because they are experienced in many different aspects and have helped many different families. Social workers repair people as well as families everyday, and save the lives of people everywhere. Social workers have a great job in the household of others, and will continue to save the people of the household.

Teenager thinking of ideas on how to repair her situation, possibly by her mother and father.

An example of where a social worker could be useful in Spelman’s book Repair is the example of the pregnant teenager. Spelman explains the mother’s and father’s role in this situation, and her take on it. The mother would be known to understand and help the situation, and her daughter. However, Spelman explains how the father is only thinking about what is morally correct and not thinking about his daughter first. When first reading this situation, I realized that if a social worker were to be involved, she would find the best outcome for the daughter and provide resources for the family. As you can imagine, there is no complete happy ending for a teenager who is pregnant, there are many challenges and obstacles that lie ahead of her. However, social workers seem to make those obstacles disappear and make sure that everyone is repaired and happy in the end. I added this image, a distressed teenage girl. This image allowed me, a teenage girl myself, to relate to this situation more. As I was writing this whole essay, I kept drawing back to the idea of, what if this was my family? As I went back to the example Spelman stated about the pregnant teen, I could not help to think about when I have seen this before. A handful of teenagers from my high school became pregnant; some had a supportive and helpful family, some did not. Social workers were used in the situations where the families were not there, to ensure the baby and teenager had the best future ahead of them. Since the parents could not repair their child, a social worker did. Social workers can help a variety of different people and different situations. No matter what, they will always find a true happy ending.

Overall, social workers help every person that needs them. Everyone will need a social worker once in their life because everyone will face a challenge sometime in their life, you just don’t know when that challenge will be. There are many different social workers to deal with every situation and they acquired the best skills to help anyone. Social workers go through schooling that prepares them to cope and help those in need, and provide a shoulder to lean on. There are many mental health services around the country as well that help people and majority of the mental health services in this country are provided by social workers, nearly 70% (TED Talk). Social workers are sometimes unknown to many people, or overlooked. However, social workers to us are the real life superheroes that we have around us all the time. Their qualities make them a real life superhero and do amazing repair to all of the people that need them. Social workers are truly remarkable people.

A family, repaired from the work of a social worker and happy again.

Acknowledgements:

I want to begin by thanking my amazing group members, Anne, Amanda, Elijah, and Travis for all their help and support. They always were brainstorming new ideas and furthered my thinking throughout this essay. Next, I would like to thank Professor Harris for his time and resources for helping me make this essay, my best essay. He dedicated his time to my essay, and me which I am very thankful for. I’d also like to thank Seda, for reading every one of my drafts and always giving her feedback. My roommate, Mariah, reread my essay to check for grammatical errors, which I am truly thankful for, as well. Lastly, I’d like to thank my parents for their constant support and love. Without them, I would not have been able to complete all of my work because of their tremendous amounts of support.

References:

Besharov, Douglas J., and Susan H. Besharov. The Vulnerable Social Worker: Liability for Serving Children and Families. Silver Spring, MD: National Association of Social Workers, 1985. Print.

Social Workers as Super-heroes, Perf. Anna Scheyett. TED Talk. N.p., 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Spelman, Elizabeth V. Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. Boston: Beacon, 2002. Print.

“Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2016

“Understanding the Role of a Social Worker.” MSWOnlineProgramsorg. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.