What do Social Workers make?
There is, in circulation, an article about all the good things social workers do for others : protect children and vulnerable adults; provide means for an impoverished family to have food and basic necessities; comfort the grieving; find treatment for the hurting and on and on and on. The article ends with the lines…”What do Social Workers make? Social Workers make a difference.”
While it is very true that Social Workers make a difference in the lives of so many vulnerable and disenfranchised people, what they DO NOT make is a lot of money.
Sadly, Social Workers do not make a very good income. In Alabama, depending on their household size, an entry level SW could qualify for some forms of government assistance such as food assistance. As ridiculous as that sounds, it is true.
Why do Social Workers make so little? The explanation seems obvious. Social Work careers, as in other service oriented professions, are the jobs no one wants to think about. In the minds of some Americans, dealing with the abuse of children and the elderly doesn’t happen in their world. They do not deal with the poor and disenfranchised on a daily basis, so that population doesn’t warrant much thought. When people and practices dont make a noticeable effect in their lives, they are easily dismissed. In other words, the profession is not highly valued by those with the strongest voices.
Social Workers are also not well esteemed in the media. Even in movie roles Social Workers are portrayed to be overworked and uncaring people. They are seen as “baby snatchers” or worse.
Even in the news, Social Workers are vilified when a parent harms a child. See, the public wants someone to blame for making them aware of the ugliness in the world so they can feel better. They believe what is said about social workers because that is all that is reported. They never get to hear “the rest of the story.”
Why don’t social workers tell their side? They cannot.
Contributing to the mistrust of social workers is the fact that every intervention, every conversation, every confession is confidential. Therefore any reporting of publicized incidents of child cruelty, death and molestation is always one-sided.
For example: A schizophrenic mother, who refuses to take her medication was court ordered no unsupervised contact with her newborn. She smothered her infant. The papers screamed the headline
“Social Worker did not protect this child!”
When in fact, the social worker made weekly visits to the home of the granparents who lied about not allowing the mother to be alone with the child. All along they were letting the mother (whose delusions that the child was the devil) have unsupervised visits with the child. Tragically, during the last visit, the mother was alone with the baby and smothered her. In this situation, the social worker went above and beyond to ensure the child was safe and that mother was getting her treatments. She was purposefully kept in the dark about the grandparents subterfuge. Yet the SW was crucified in the media. Not the mother and not the grandparents.
This is but one in thousands of scenarios where the public will never know the truth due to the constraints of confidentiality.
Dont get me wrong, Confidentiality is necessary to protect the rights of clients. But the fact is that confidentiality is a double edged sword.
Ok..you get it…but what, you may ask, does all that have to do with SW salaries? I’ll tell you.
For those in the US who work for the State Child Welfare Agency, the state government controls staffing, resources and income. Operating under a state budget, money is allocated by the Legislators based on their plan for state improvement as well as their assessment of programs that will most benefit the state. Therefore, an undervalued social service agency could potentially be the last in line for funding. The victims have no voice to ask for help, but those with the loudest voices are blindfolded by their will to dismiss. Therefore, cost of living raises are usually voted down for SW.
Now if I have scared you away from social work then you have missed one thing. Whether paid well or not, there are many many social workers out there helping the hungry and the hurting. And they are NOT doing it for the money. They get fringe benefits some will NEVER know…
- They get to protect children from unsafe situations
- They get to watch a child, who spent 700 days in Foster care get adopted by a forever family.
- They get to see tears of joy when a mother completes her plan and is reunited with her children
- They get to hold the hands of an elderly patient and listen to his fascinating life memories
- They get to celebrate with a young mother when she earns her 6 month sobriety chip. And so much more…
Without advocacy, helping professions will never be paid what they deserve. But they will keep on doing the job anyway. Because They are well aware that they are never going to make a lot of money.
But they truly will make a difference.