Tiffany Green is an American social worker, recruited to work in the UK by Merton Council. Having qualified in 2002, she has progressed through the ranks and now specialises in quality assurance. In this, her first post for our new feature – the voice of the social worker; Tiffany speaks about her journey to qualification and the UK.

“You want to be a baby snatcher?”

My friends and family misunderstood the scope of being a social worker, but I knew just how diverse the role was. I wanted to use my skills to change the lives of the most vulnerable in our society, and in doing so, improve society as a whole.

Children and adult social care

People, no matter how close or distant, are part of an interconnected, dynamic, complex human system. To be a good social worker, one must be able to interact with every part of that system, however brief. It is about understanding the impact of every part of the individual – both in children and adults.

I’ve learned a lot from working with adults and children; both have their own challenges and complexities. My time working with adults gave me a unique perspective that helped me solve issues when I went back to working with children and families. My practice has benefitted greatly from my being able to move about freely, using my skills to work with different groups, each with varying degrees of complex issues.

I have a greater regard for, and understanding of, what it takes to affect real change in families. It was important to focus on the child but to make a real change I also had to build relationships with parents. This meant understanding where their distress lies and helping them understand the impact this has on their children and family as a whole.

Difference between the UK & US

Further to the differences between adult and children’s social work, there are also differences between the practices in other countries. Having learned my trade in the US and now practicing in the UK, I can attest.

In the US, there is no distinction between adult and children’s social work. I believe this is because of the consensus that social workers have a set of generic skills which allow us to work with a variety of populations. Whilst there are separate sets of laws that govern the type of role one undertakes within an employment setting, the only major distinction made in social work is through your level of qualification, and thus, what you are able to do professionally.

Social workers have a role in police stations, prisons, child welfare, mental health, libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, community organisations, working internationally, starting social programs, in government policy, advocating and promoting social justice, in schools, day centres and hospices.

Qualification

Although differing from state to state, bachelor degrees for the most part train individuals as generalists. This enables you to work with individuals, families, groups and communities. It provides a sense of how and why social care has become the profession that it is today.

Upon graduation, you could be classified as a caseworker, case manager, or case planner. These would mirror the roles of UK social workers in children’s or adults social care; you are coordinating services to meet the needs of your clients and meeting with them regularly to ensure this is happening. You are also undertaking this in a variety of settings, whether that’s a hospital, community programme, or elsewhere.

Our degrees prepare us for practice with a distinct set of transferrable skills to address social issues like poverty, substance misuse, social injustice, inequalities, criminality, and mental health. We also develop the tools we need to execute these skills with all types of people, young and old.

Things become much more specialist at master’s level.

I graduated with a clinical degree; with this qualification, I could go into clinical practice in either an established or private setting. In New York State, following completion of my master’s degree, and as a precursor to clinical practice, I had to pass a licensing exam.

With two more years of direct client contact doing assessment, diagnosis and treatment, I could potentially open my own practice. This is by far my greatest achievement; knowing that I can help people work through difficult issues that have been inhibiting their growth and progression.

In New York, in addition to licensing, someone wanting to specialise in social work within a school setting will have to obtain a provisional certificate as a school social worker. After another two years of service, you will be eligible to apply for a permanent certificate. Each of these certificates has a list of requirements. Other specialisms include administration – becoming a social work manager – macro social work, international social work, policy practice and others.

The future

There will always be a need for social workers, whether that’s in police stations, hospitals, community organisation, children’s centres or hospices; the future changes will likely be made to the branding of the service and the prioritisation of issues that come from central government. Register with HCL today and receive the latest vacancies tailored to your specialism, directly to your inbox.

I currently work with some amazing people that are helping to revolutionise the service we provide to children, adults and families. In the coming months, I’ll be discussing a diverse range of issues that social workers face on a daily basis, from child sexual exploitation to mental health. Stay tuned to “The voice of the social worker.”

The views and opinions expressed on HCL Social Care Ltd blogs do not necessarily represent those of HCL Social Care Ltd. HCL Social Care Ltd cannot be held responsible for the accuracy or reliability of information posted by external parties.

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