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National Social Work Month: How Social Work Services Can Benefit Canadians




March is National Social Work Month, so I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and recognize all the compassionate and dedicated Social Workers who work tirelessly to serve their clients and organizations to improve quality of life.


I also wanted to take a moment to talk about Social Work services and dispel a couple myths along the way.


When I was a pre-teen, my mom always thought I would find my career in social work. I scoffed at the idea, saying exclaiming "I don't want to take children away for a living!". But, little did I know that there is more to social work than apprehending children (In fact, in Saskatchewan, "Birth Alerts"--or the practice of apprehending children of "at risk" mothers in foster care have ended as of February 1, 2025. This is major progress towards dispelling the myth that all Social Workers do is apprehend children, but there is still lots of work to be done within the foster care system, and that may very well be a blog post for another day).


If you remember in my first post, the path I thought I wanted to travel to pursue my passion of social justice was through Law School. Of course, Creator, or something else, had other plans for me.


I first started my social work career--before even becoming a social worker!--in housing. Fighting homelessness. I was told my goal was to work myself out of a job. Little did I know that this would be my path to social work and that I would find out that"social workers" wear more hats than just child apprehension.


Social work myths


There are a number of myths out there about what the profession of social work IS. But, before I go into that, I'd like to talk about social work IS NOT and dispel some myths.


Myth #1: You have to be on social assistance to access a social worker


NO! While many social workers are employed in the non-profit sector within community based or non-governmental organizations or even within government, these agencies often have a mandate that support various causes from food security to domestic/gender-based violence to hospitals to schools, women's causes and 2SLGBTQIA+, counsellors in private practice.... you get the point. And, though income assistance programs through the any level of government do often hire social work graduates, there are many programs and services available to people from all walks of life. To qualify to use these programs, you simply have to meet the organization's mandate of people who access services


Myth #2: Social Work services are free.


No. And, also, yes. While community based or non-governmental organizations with a specific mandate for a specific demographic are generally funded by government or other stakeholders to allow them to provide services free of charge to individuals, couples, families or groups that meet their criteria, there may be professionals within these or private organizations that charge a fee for service. For example, if you are a tenant at a rent-geared-to- income housing project with a social worker onsite, you have access to that social worker through your monthly rental fee. Other organizations may charge a membership fee to access certain services, and fees for service are built into the membership fee. Other services, such as counseling, alternative dispute or mediation services, and educational/training services may charge a flat rate or an hourly fee. Some service providers may offer a sliding scale for those on a low or fixed income (hello!). Remember, Social Workers are highly trained professionals who require continuing education to maintain their competency and licenses, therefore they deserve to be paid fairly for their expertise, skills and knowledge. Also though, if you have any extended health insurance plan, your service fees may be covered! Check with your insurance provider to learn more!


Myth #3: Social workers are micromanagers who use systemic power to have their clients do what they want.


Quite the opposite is true, actually. While social workers are very aware of the power dynamic that is in place, especially if they are a mandated client, such as in the case of corrections or probation, for example (Note that an organization's mandate and a mandated client are different. A mandated client is a client who is required to complete a program in order to achieve certain goals, like regaining parenting time after leaving the judicial system. An organization's mandate means that they work with a particular demographic to address a certain need, like food banks or low income housing), according to the CASW code of ethics, social workers' first responsibility is to respect the inherent dignity of the person and to promote self-determination in all sessions or visit with the social worker. Through trauma-informed care and a strengths based lens, (and in some cases a feminist approach) social workers dismantle existing power structures and work to destroy barriers that exist through upholding those power structures. This is why my focus as a counselor and mediator is to build-capacity through identifying needs, providing resources and focusing on the individual's strengths and resiliency. To learn more about my approach, visit my FAQ section.


Myth #4: On the other hand, social workers are doormats whose training and skills put them at risk to be taken advantage of


Yes, social workers are trained in non-judgmental, compassionate and empathic listening. But we are also highly trained in effective communication skills, conflict resolution and assertiveness and boundaries. Self-care is more than just a buzz-word. It's a way of life. Vicarious trauma, burnout and compassion fatigue are real issues that the profession faces as a whole. In fact, we are required by the Code of Ethics, to take steps to prevent burn-out from happening so we can remain more accountable to you, the client.


Now that that's out of the way...


What it IS Social Work and what does it do for you?





The CASW Scope of Practice defines social work as:


"Social work is a practice-based profession and academic discipline founded on theories of social work, social science, and humanities. It is advanced through an evidence informed approach and recognizes the importance of Indigenous ways of knowing in practice, the development of knowledge, and education, clinical services, policy, and research. Social work focuses on the person within their environment and recognizes the importance of family, community, culture, legal, social, spiritual, and economic influences that impact the well-being of individuals, families, groups, and communities. Social work applies a strengths-based perspective and views individual, families, and communities as

resourceful, resilient, and having capacity. Principles of respect for the inherent dignity and worth of persons, the pursuit of social justice, and culturally responsive practice that applies an anti-oppressive lens to all areas of practice and is grounded in ethics, values, and humility, are central to social work." (1).


It goes on to say that:


"Social work practice responds to needs of individuals, families, groups, and communities and addresses barriers and injustices in organizations and society. Social work focuses on improving health and social well-being using the social determinants of health framework when delivering services, navigating systems, and advocating for equitable access to and improvement of the multiple dimensions that impact health and well-being. Social work engages people and communities to address life challenges and traumatic events, to create change, and build resiliency. Social work also collaborates with other professionals, communities, and organizations to provide services, improve conditions, and create opportunities for growth, recovery, and personal development." (1).


You may have heard the term "meet people where they are at" used in Social work (as a person who also strongly considered majoring in languages and linguistics, I wish there was a more grammatically correct way to say this. Needless to say, it hurts a little. ). What this term means to me, and why it is so often used, is that social workers recognize the interconnectedness of all of life's moving parts. How one's past could influence and inform their current circumstances, but doesn't define their future. It acknowledges that mental health and physical health relies on the balance of social, financial and spiritual health, and that if one is off balance, one's entire system can crumble. This also means that services can be offered on an individual level (micro)or organizational level (macro) because healthy individuals means healthy workplaces and one cannot function without the other.





All this to say that social workers wear many different hats on many different occasions. A day in the life of a social worker could like like; advocacy, clinical services in the form of case management or counselling or therapy, it could mean crisis intervention and case planning, it could mean community development or organizing, influencing social policies for the betterment of their client demographic, it could be providing training and education, and it could mean research and evaluation. For more information on the roles and responsibilities, visit https://www.casw-acts.ca/files/documents/Scope_of_Practice_Statement_2020_1.pdf and, don't forget to thank a social worker for all we do!



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