Fighting social injustices including poverty is at the heart of the social work profession. And now, with the growing political debate surrounding the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, the spotlight shines a little brighter on the role social workers play in helping those in need.
According to the Census Bureau, poverty affects more than 46 million people in the U.S. Those suffering from poverty are faced with the struggle of meeting life’s basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or access to education. On a social level, poverty can also mean suffering from social exclusion or labeling which can further the economic difficulties and emotional distress an individual or a family may be facing.
Social workers help poverty-stricken populations by working with individuals, communities and the government to find solutions or advocate for policies critical in the fight against poverty. Instead of simply addressing the symptoms of poverty, they target the root cause of the problem.
For example, on an individual level, social workers may help connect their clients with resources such as subsidized housing, federal aid or job training programs.
On a community level, they may work with residents on efforts such as local business development or community job retention. And on a national scale, they may partner with advocacy organizations to support policies and programs favorable to the poorest sectors of our society.
Social work students with an interest in poverty prevention can choose from many career paths that make a lasting impact on those living in poverty. Whether it’s through direct practice, research, or community development, social workers can work in social services agencies, non-profit organizations, think tanks and other settings.
At Limestone College, students pursuing a bachelors degree in Social Work are required to take several courses that will help prepare them for working in poverty prevention. For example, a course in Social Welfare Programs and Policy equips students with the knowledge of programs and resources available to various populations. Also, students will take two courses in Social Work Intervention, one specializing in working with individuals, families and small groups while the other focuses on working with large groups and community organization.