Social workers deal with human inconsistencies and failures which create many common social work barriers that workers must overcome to do their jobs well. The failures and inconsistencies are not always client-based. A lot of problems arise with governmental regulations and perceptions of county commissioners and other resource personnel.
What Problems Involve Client Interaction?
According to the National Association of Social Workers, society has undergone an economic upheaval. Once, people believed that if they graduated high school, got a degree and worked hard at a career, they would succeed in the "American Dream." That is no longer always true. Often, couples need two incomes to afford housing, other necessities and a few "luxuries" for their families. That is a challenge for workers whose caseloads consist mainly of one-parent households where the adult is usually a woman and frequently has small children to care for. If the parent goes back to school or gets training, there must be a plan for child care. In one Connecticut town, people must earn $73,000 just to afford rent or a mortgage and utilities. In addition, many people, including whole families, often cannot afford housing and become homeless.
Another challenge is that mental illness seems to be more prevalent today. That illness becomes a barrier that social workers must overcome when they are taxed to find resources for individuals who cannot function successfully yet are not imminent dangers to themselves or others.
What Social Work Barriers Involve Governmental Regulations
Increasingly, the government is passing laws like HIPAA regarding privacy of information. That means cooperation between agencies and between caregivers and social workers may be hard to achieve because they cannot communicate. The area of who has first access to information from therapists and with whom the information can be shared is nebulous at best. Another issue arising from governmental regulations affects foster care. The states require an ever-increasing amount of documentation from foster parents while not raising reimbursements, and foster homes are closing in great numbers. That makes finding placements for abused and neglected children harder. In addition, as regulations change it is difficult to keep abreast of new requirements.
Challenges Arising Within the Workers
Self-determination is a core concept of social work. It means that workers often have to accept less than adequate functioning for clients because they choose it for themselves. Workers also have to overcome preconceptions like biases against people who engage in domestic violence or substance abusers in their own lives that affect the way they interact with others. Another challenge social workers face arises from perceptions others carry about social work and clients. According to "Work.Chron" many people, including those in positions of authority and those who control financial resources, assume that clients can be "fixed" in a certain amount of time. There is constant pressure on social workers, usually involving finances, to resolve and close cases. Because of the pressure, social workers have a high burnout rate. Self-care is a huge issue they must face daily. Experts in helping professions say that it is imperative for social workers, especially those new to the field, to find mentors.
People who begin careers as social workers usually have a great desire to make a positive impact on society, and they do. Still, there are many challenges in social work and many barriers social workers must overcome.