Social workers play a vital role in helping physically and sexually abused children. In order to play this role, they need knowledge about the nature of the problem: (1) legal definitions of physical and sexual abuse, (2) its incidence and prevalence, and (3) its signs and symptoms. Social workers have three major roles to play: (1) identifying and reporting child abuse to agencies mandated to intervene; (2) investigating and assessing children and families involved in child abuse; and (3) providing evidence-based interventions, both case management and treatment, to physically and sexually abused children.
Kathleen Coulborn Faller
Valire Carr Copeland and Daniel Hyung Jik Lee
Social reform efforts of the settlement-house movement have provided, in part, the foundation for today’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s policies, programs, and services. Planning, implementing, and evaluating policies and programs that affect the health and well-being of mothers and children require a multidisciplinary approach. Social workers, whose skills encompass direct services, advocacy, planning and research, community development, and administration, have a critical role to play in improving the health outcomes of maternal and child populations.
Hilary N. Weaver
First Nations Peoples, the original inhabitants of what is now the United States, are a diverse and growing population. There are approximately 5.2 million First Nations Peoples within the boundaries of the United States. First Nations Peoples tend to be younger, poorer, and less educated than others in the United States. The contemporary issues faced by these Peoples are intimately intertwined with the history of colonization and federal policies that perpetuate dependency and undermine self-determination. Social workers must overcome the negative history of their profession with First Nations Peoples, in particular social work involvement in extensive child removals and coercive sterilization of Indigenous women. Social workers have the power and ability to make important differences in enhancing the social, economic, and health status of First Nations Peoples, but this must begin with an awareness of their own attitudes and beliefs, as well as an awareness of how social workers have contributed to, rather than worked to alleviate, the problems of First Nations Peoples.
John Paul Horn, Emily Bruce, and Toni Naccarato
In the United States, the child welfare system is composed of multiple services to keep children safe, either by strengthening family units, preventing maltreatment, or providing alternative care arrangements for children who are unable to safely remain at home. These services include child protection, family support and maintenance programs, reunification, and out-of-home care. Some children return safely to their families, but other children might never return home. Services for these youth might include adoption, guardianship, and/or transitional planning for youth exiting foster care to adulthood. Case-carrying social workers hold responsibility for assessing the case, making recommendations to the court, and preparing reports for parents, court officers, and sometimes for dependent children (based on their age). These individuals are professional social workers with graduate degrees in social work. Case aids or case assistants often provide support services for the case-carrying social worker.
Aakanksha Sinha and Ruth G. McRoy
Every year thousands of children are removed from their families and are placed into out-of-home care. While these children are placed in care settings with a hope of a better future, they are often faced with many challenges that impact their short and long terms growth. As of 2017, 442,995 children have been removed from their families and placed in the U.S. foster care system for an average of 20.1 months. Placement occurs for several reasons, such as neglect, parent incarceration, drug abuse, and caretakers’ inability to cope. Twenty-seven percent (117,110) have been in care over two years, and all of these children face many obstacles in life that can impact their short- and long-term well-being. One of the most significant challenges they face is access to a stable educational environment that supports positive mental, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social growth. Frequent moves, lack of coordination between schools, and underdeveloped infrastructure to support unique needs are some of the significant predictors of disproportionately poor education outcomes for children in foster care and other residential settings. The lack of stable educational environment leads to a number of challenges related to enrollment, stability, access to special services, peer relations, grade retention, and caregiver and teacher familiarity with academic strengths and weaknesses of the child. To improve their educational outcomes, there is a need for advocacy and significant changes at the at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Consistent efforts need to be made by stakeholders, such as state and federal government, schools, child welfare systems, and community partners to address systemic inequities, improve current policies and practices, increase accessibility to quality schools, provide mental health services, and, most importantly, establish a stable environment that will enable the youth to flourish and succeed.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an immigration classification that provides a pathway to lawful permanent residency for non-citizen immigrant children in the United States who have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar basis under state law; who cannot reunify with one or both parents; who are under state court jurisdiction; and for whom it is not in their best interests to be returned to their country of nationality or prior residence. Social workers have played a significant role in the development of SIJS, and they have an ongoing role in the identification and referral of potentially eligible children as well as in the refinement of SIJS policies. Social workers’ roles with SIJS represent the profession’s multifaceted capacity, including support and referral with individual children, advocacy across multiple systems, and policy practice in the creation and continued improvement of this protective status.