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Social Worker Benefits and How They Make a Difference

May 20, 2018

An individual who chooses to enter the social work field is doing more than choosing a career. They are choosing to make an impact on the lives of those they encounter across nonprofit organizations, government agencies, hospitals, and private practices every day.

Social workers yield benefits that make a substantial difference in improving the well-being of the individuals and communities they support. The drive to make meaningful progress toward this goal can make a social work career uniquely satisfying, and earning an advanced social work degree is a key early step in this journey.  

The Different Types of Social Worker Benefits

The benefits of social work have immediate and long-term positive effects, both for the social worker and the people they work with. These professionals help address major challenges in a range of critical areas, and there are numerous specializations in social work that they may choose to pursue. 

Social Workers Are Influential Mentors 

Social workers stand up for children, adolescents, and adults from all walks of life. Some may be struggling with addiction, while others may be facing poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, or crime. 

There were 2,055 arrests per 100,000 youths aged 10 to 17 in 2019, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s most recent available data prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Social workers are making an effort to mentor at-risk or troubled youth to decrease the number of juvenile arrests and steer these individuals toward a more promising future.

Those in the field of social work have raised concerns about the lack of mentoring relationships among the country’s at-risk youth. Social workers are not able to do it all, so they are driven to start organizations and movements that aim to provide at-risk youth with equitable education, access to health care, sufficient employment opportunities, and social structures that guide youth toward more positive outcomes. 

Often, professionals working across various industries are inspired by the people, situations, and environments around them to effect change in areas that concern overlooked social issues. One of these individuals was Ernest Kent Coulter. In 1904, as a New York City court clerk, Coulter recognized the potential of pairing caring adults with young children and teenagers to help America’s youth stay out of trouble. His observation began the Big Brothers movement.

In 1977, the Big Brothers Association merged with Big Sisters International to form Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Today, it is the oldest mentoring organization in the country and is supported in part by federal funding.

The work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America leaves a significant impact on the “Littles,” the boys and girls between 6 and 14 who join its program (versus “Bigs,” the adult volunteers). The organization notes that youth in its programs are 52 percent less likely to skip school, 46 percent less likely to begin using illicit drugs, 33 percent less likely to hit another person, and 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol.

Social Workers Make a Difference in Policy Change 

One of the key social worker benefits involves advocating for ways to improve society by changing existing policies or developing better policies. A prime example of this involves the work of Frances Perkins. Born in 1880, Perkins was the first woman to serve as a cabinet secretary and is recognized as a prominent advocate for industrial safety and workers’ rights in U.S. history. A visit to local mills to observe working conditions while she was in college inspired her to become an advocate for workers’ safety.

This inspiration led to Perkins making sweeping changes to labor laws. As  executive secretary of the New York City Consumers League, she successfully reduced the workweek of women and children in factories to 54 hours. Additionally, she advocated for fire protection in factories and sanitary regulations in bakeries.

In 1933, Perkins was invited to serve as secretary of labor under the president-elect at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt. As secretary, she went on to craft the Fair Labor Standards Act, which banned child labor and established maximum work hours and a minimum wage. As the head of the Committee on Economic Security, Perkins helped draft the Social Security Act, which was signed into law in 1935 and included unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, and a pension system.

Perkins’ story exemplifies the impact that a social worker can have on society. Today, social workers labor alongside local, state, and national politicians to propose, draft, and implement social programs to benefit society’s vulnerable and underprivileged individuals. Their work covers a broad spectrum of contemporary issues. 

For example, today’s social workers advocate for education equity through student aid and student loan reform. They also push for legislation for support programs that can help mitigate the effects of mental health issues after disasters or emergencies. Additionally, social workers continue to be advocates for the LGBTQ+ community by fighting policies that may hinder the safety and freedoms of LGBTQ+ youth.

Social Workers Benefit Child Safety 

Social workers are often the first individuals to make an impact on the life of a vulnerable individual. For example, social workers provide early intervention and assessment in child maltreatment and neglect cases. Those working in Child Protective Services intervene on behalf of children on a daily basis, offering protection in some of the most extreme and unfortunate cases. 

According to the Child Maltreatment 2022 report from the Administration for Children & Families, Child Protective Services received approximately 4.27 million referrals alleging the maltreatment of roughly 7.53 million children. Its due diligence, meant to confirm cases of maltreatment, resulted in some 3.09 million children receiving an investigation or some sort of alternate response. These investigations highlighted approximately 559,000 victims of maltreatment. Of these, about 300,000 children received post-responsive services, while about 105,000 children received foster care. 

The history of organized child protective care began with the founding of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1874 by animal protection advocate Henry Bergh and his attorney, Elbridge Gerry. Over the years, the efforts of advocates for child and youth protection have led to sweeping legislative changes that have helped protect children. 

For example, amendments to the Social Security Act in 1962 required states to pledge that child welfare services would be available statewide by July 1, 1975. Another example is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Passed in 1974, the act set national definitions regarding child abuse and allocated funding for nonprofits and public agencies to conduct activities that minimize child abuse and provide treatment to child abuse victims.

Today, social workers use these laws to help build strategies that protect children and nurture those who have experienced abuse. They also work to advocate for improved legislation that can help mitigate the risk of child abuse, including child sexual abuse.

Explore the Benefits of a Career in Social Work With Tulane University 

Regardless of which path social workers choose to take, they can take pride in making an impact on the lives of the individuals they encounter on a daily basis. Their work yields benefits that make social work a highly rewarding career.

Tulane University’s Online Master of Social Work program can help equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to reap these unique benefits. Our fully online course taps into New Orleans’ high level of resilience to help you gain expertise on how to recognize issues and advocate for change, helping you enter the social work field with confidence. Learn how we can prepare you to be a change maker.