Sacramento County is helping celebrate this year’s Social Work Month with the theme “Social Workers are Essential” to highlight the priceless contributions social workers make in our community, especially during COVID-19.
The goal of Social Work Month is to inform the public, policymakers and legislators about the way the nation’s social workers each day meet people where they are and help them live to their fullest potential. Social work is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
There are currently about 700,000 professional social workers in our nation, but that number is expected to rise to more than 800,000 by 2029. Social work has been around for more than a century and has made significant contributions to our nation. For example, social workers such as social reformer Jane Addams, former Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, and civil rights leaders Dorothy Height, Whitney Young and Ida B. Wells have helped Americans secure voting rights, equal rights, Social Security, unemployment insurance and other programs.
You will find social workers throughout society – protecting children and vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect and providing mental health and substance use disorder treatment. They can be found assisting active-duty military, veterans and their families; in schools; helping corporations better serve their communities; in community organizations; and in local and state government.
Sacramento County Department of Child, Family and Adult Services
(DCFAS) has 524 social workers across the department. They work across a number of areas, including child and elder abuse and neglect investigations and follow-up. They help keep children and families safely together and/or reunify them or help children find “forever families.” Some social workers assess the need for home care services that allow individuals to remain in their homes, rather than institutions. Others serve individuals that are gravely disabled and those who are living with severe mental illness, supporting them to live in the least restrictive settings within our community.
DCFAS social workers link individuals and families to housing services and supports, benefits, employment and so many other resources that promote the safety, health and well-being of community members across the age span. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social workers have also been on the frontlines along with doctors, nurses, law enforcement, grocery store employees and other essential employees that provided critical services during this time.
Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance
(DHA) currently has a team of 45 Human Services Social Workers (HSSWs) assigned to various programs, including Employment Services, Homeless Services and CalWORKs. Since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, much of the customer contact associated with this work has shifted from in-person to virtual services.
HSSWs in DHA are busy helping customers receive necessary resource and case management services. Some focus on helping families who are experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, truancy or other family crisis. There are other HSSWs in DHA that help customers learn skills such as job searching, resume building and interviewing. The biggest division of HSSWs in DHA supports those who are homeless and assist with resources, crisis response and addressing barriers to housing. There is also a team of HSSWs that help customers navigate the challenging disability benefits process and a social worker who provides support at the General Assistance office to assess client needs and makes referrals to other social service agencies and community service agencies.
Despite the great value of social workers, the social work profession faces challenges. There is a shortage of social workers in schools where they are needed to help young people cope with complicated issues such as trauma, poverty, the opioid addiction crises and the need for more resources to help students learn during the pandemic. There is also a need for more social workers in the fields of child welfare and aging and adult services.
“Social workers are unsung heroes that are essential to community well-being. They are driven by several core values, including service, social justice and the dignity and worth of human beings,” said Michelle Callejas, Director of Sacramento County, Child, Family and Adult Services.
“During social work month, we hope you will reach out and say a kind word to the social workers in your lives, and, if you are so inclined, advocate for policies and legislation that benefit the profession and the populations they serve.”