The life of a social worker can be very different depending on your specialization. However, a social worker's duties to help clients achieve a better life is the same no matter where you work or what your role entails. We've gathered some true social worker stories so you can get a better understanding of what life is really like as a social worker. This blog will give you insight into the life of a government/nonprofit social worker.
Zeke Morgan recently graduated from the Baylor School of Social Work and earned a dual degree. In 2017 he graduated with his MSW, then earned an MBA in 2018. Zeke is currently working in Waco, Texas as a program analyst for the city’s homeless program. Here is what he had to say about his day-to-day life in social work.
My Life As a Social Worker
I work for the City of Waco, and on behalf of the Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition (HOTHC) as a Homeless Program Analyst. My daily work varies greatly, which is part of what keeps my job interesting. Together with another analyst, we make up the city’s current response to homelessness. We do a lot of system design in an attempt to make all types of homelessness rare, brief, and a one-time experience.
The HOTHC is a combination of many of the homeless service providers in our area. Together we collaborate and combine our services to be as comprehensive as possible in what we can provide as we work to house the homeless. This unique government/nonprofit partnership gives us access to both the agencies working with our local homeless neighbors, as well as a voice in the policy decisions that affect some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Social Work and Data — An Unexpected Combination
One of my biggest daily tasks is to maintain and operate our Homeless Management Information System. This is a local database utilized to coordinate care and necessary treatment for our homeless neighbors. I spend a large part of my day sorting and sifting through data.
Data and social work are two fields that most people don’t usually associate with each other, but they are becoming more and more intertwined. Every social worker is passionate about people, and values the relationships and rapport built as we strive to better the world.
Data does not get in the way of social work, but rather it is what allows us to measure outcomes and compare programs to see if we’re doing things well. It gives us insight and hard facts on top of the intuition and relationships that we value so highly. Data and social work are complementary and we should never try to replace one with the other, but lean into both aspects simultaneously.
The Best Part of My Job as a Social Worker
Training is one of the best parts of my job as it allows me to reconnect with people and provide insight into the systemic and policy changes that my teammate and I need to build. These are the times our team builds relationships and grounds our work in the experience of the community.
Training can be centered on anything from training users on aspects of our system, such as how to input data or generate local reports, to helping individuals understand systemic changes, like a totally new program designed to make the process of housing individuals a quicker and more efficient experience. Basically, we get to help the helpers and ensure that we are maximizing our impact by researching best practices and collaborating with the direct service providers.
Reports — Not As Enjoyable, But Definitely Necessary
Every social worker has to compile reports. While I don’t enjoy the reporting aspect of my job as much as the trainings and personal interactions, the time I spend in the community always reminds me of the importance of maintaining good data and evaluation of our programs.
Without that tediousness, we could very easily become complacent in our drive to end homelessness. Reports also tell us which interventions and programs are working and which ones aren’t. Further, they help to enhance our communication as an organization. Reports are how agencies are able to hold each other accountable and learn from each other.
My Bottom Line
This collaborative environment has been a huge strength for the HOTHC and instills pride as I get to watch all of the members share their successes. Serving as part of a bigger team is a great reminder of what drew me to social work in the first place — creating community and safety for those who have been excluded or taken advantage of. When I put everything into this perspective, reporting doesn’t seem so bad, and I see the value and joy in all the work I do.