Social Workers: Why You Are Your Client’s Biggest Advocate
As social workers, we take on a variety of roles when working with our clients. As case managers, we help our clients access resources and make their appointments. As clinicians, we provide therapy and emotional support. And as outreach workers, we liaise with our client’s loved ones and support systems to help them get what they need.
Whether your work primarily focuses on therapy, case management, outreach, or a bit of everything, another important hat you’ll always wear is being a client advocate. For these critical reasons, as a social worker, you’ll always be one of the most important, if not the most important, advocate in your clients’ lives.
Your clients come from vulnerable populations
While a social worker’s specific client population can vary, nearly everyone we work with can be described as vulnerable. Social workers often support children in the foster care system, elderly or medically frail patients, clients with severe and persistent mental illness, people battling the cycle of addiction, and other populations under severe stress.
Clients from these populations get support from social workers because they need extra help to navigate their unique needs, and even have their basic life needs be met. As a social worker, you’re these clients’ main point of contact and advocate.
Your clients are often unseen
Sadly, many of the most vulnerable people in our communities remain unseen. Young children experiencing abuse will get missed, the disabled and elderly can remain immobile in long term care facilities, and homeless adults will be seen as annoying and ignorable rather than people who need support.
Your job as a social worker is to take your clients and put them in the spotlight! The more you advocate for your clients, the more they and their needs will be seen and taken care of. Your advocacy helps keep your clients from being forgotten and enables them to act as valuable members of our society.
Your clients can’t always self-advocate
For many reasons, most of our vulnerable clients are unable to advocate for themselves. In some cases, our clients are too young to speak or understand what’s happening. Other times, their health is too frail. They might have safety concerns or a mental illness like depression might make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
As a result, you need to get out and fight for your clients on their behalf. In the meantime, you can also, in many cases, teach clients how to do their own self-advocacy while you go out there and fight for their needs. No matter what, it’s important not to judge your clients’ challenges and make sure you can be their advocate when they can’t fight for themselves.
Your clients need policy changes on their behalf
In some cases, your clients are good self-advocates, but without you being an even bigger advocate, they can keep hitting the red tape in the system. Sometimes, in order for your clients to be served, you need to use your social work skills to look at making changes on a more global level.
As a social worker, you have unique training to navigate systems and make changes on the policy level on behalf of individual clients and the bigger client populations you serve. These changes could happen at a more grassroots level, such as in a specific organization or locally in a city or county, or you might be looking at helping make changes at the state, national, or global level.
No matter what, it’s always important to remember you as the social worker are the biggest and best advocate your clients will have. So let’s go out there and fight for the help and changes they need!
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