Life as a foster kid is not always easy, sometimes it can be pretty ‘hard knock‘. Still, a social worker’s role in child welfare is to help the child through many immense changes and traumatic events.
“In the United States, 13 million or nearly 18 percent of children live in poverty, and children of color are at elevated risk of poverty” (Dinitto & Mcneece, 240).
Poverty can also lead to inadequate or safe housing, and even homelessness. Children who are on the run must seek resources in other ways, potentially even stealing. Poverty and homelessness also significantly creates challenges and baggage for students in school, making concentration impossible (240).
Childhood neglect is defined as “the failure of adults to meet children’s physical, emotional, mental, educational, or social needs” (Dinitto & Mcneece, 239).
In cases where neglect is present, a social worker helps in the investigation process by working with the children and families and ultimately if needed they assess if the child should leave its current home and enter into foster or adoptive care. The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 works to solve the root cause of having to take children from their homes in that it works to help the families resolve issues and mandates “permanency planning for children. States are required to make reasonable efforts to prevent children from entering foster care or to reunite foster children with their parents” (246).
Social workers should provide a good listening ear for the children experiencing neglect or trauma in order to ensure that they advocate the best options for them to the courts. Unfortunately, some flaws still exist in the system and it can be hard to solve every problem in such a little amount of time as a child welfare social worker. Sometimes long term referrals are necessary to work on behalf of childhood trauma survivors.
“Social workers help the family work toward reunification with the child while also developing an alternate permanent plan (such as kinship care or adoption)” (248).
“Social workers do much of the work to identify the best placement and make it successful” (248).
Life in a foster home is not always as harsh as movies depict. Still, it is very important that social workers work with families to teach them ways of working with an adolescent who is experiencing significant change and also how to provide help and good care for the child.
“Foster care is full-time temporary substitute care in a family-like setting. On any given day, approximately 500,000 children (or about 800,000 per year) are in foster care in the U.S. Children stay in foster care an average of thirty-three months, though 17% have been in care for five years or more” (250).
Academic and social challenges in the life of a child can significantly affect how they perform and learn in school. Unfortunately, many students that child welfare workers see have struggles with such things including reading.
“Social workers in schools, for instance, help parents assist their children to learn outside school and to overcome family tensions so that children have more peaceful environments in which to study” (256).
Programs such as the Promise Zone and Catholic Charities Community Connection Center, or Gateway, are programs specific to helping students in Broome County through providing social work to students.
Ultimately, there is much to be done in regards to child welfare at the micro, mezzo and certainly the macro levels. Social workers play an important role in how our communities and societies care for our children, and some are able to find happy stories like Annie thanks to the work of superheros like Social workers.
DiNitto, D., & McNeece, Carl Aaron. (2008). Social work : Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, Ill.: Lyceum Books