Charity and philanthropy have existed in society for centuries. Before the twentieth century, however, they consisted mainly of donations from the affluent that were distributed by church groups to the needy. No efforts were made to improve the lot of the poor except to those in emergency situations, and no systematic methods were established to follow up on charity cases or improve the conditions of the poor in any permanent way.
Human services workers are employed in a variety of institutional and community settings, administering help and support to the poor, the aged, the handicapped and mentally ill, substance abusers, parolees, and others having trouble with adjustments in life. The job of the human services worker is primarily one of supporting the work of the social workers, psychologists, and other professional staff of agency or program, and carrying out the directives and the duties of the agencies by which they are employed. Like social workers, their work can be any of three types: casework, group work, and community organization work.
Casework involves direct, face-to-face interaction between the clients needing help and the workers providing it. When most people think of social work, they probably think of case work. The case aide assists the regular social worker on the simpler aspects of these cases, under close and regular supervision.
In a way, all human service workers’ case management careers are involved in case work, but their duties can vary a great deal because of the agency they work for, their experience, and the severity and complexity of the social problems they will be addressing. It can occur in offices, hospitals, homes, community centers, schools, and numerous other settings. Casework could involve helping a single mother get the government benefits she deserves, assisting old persons get to and from hospitals and community centers, or helping the physically and mentally handicapped become more self-sufficient in the daily living. They may transport or accompany clients to group meal sites, adult day care programs, or doctor’s offices. They stay in touch with clients through home visits and telephone calls, checking to be sure the needed services are being received. Management aides serve tenants in public housing projects. They are employed by housing or other groups to help tenants relocate, inform tenants of the use of facilities and the location of community services such as recreation centers and clinics, explain the management’s rules about sanitation and maintenance, and advise homemakers needing assistance in child care, money management, and housekeeping problems. They may at times help resolve disagreements between tenants and landlords.
Group work takes place in a more or less regular setting, such as community centers, homes for the aged or developmentally disabled, hospitals, halfway houses, settlement houses, and correctional facilities. Programs in these settings can be directed to help old people stay alive and alert, provide support for children and adults with serious illnesses, help prison inmates and parolees learn new skills, or helps groups such as migrant workers and recent immigrants find answers to their problems of economic and social adjustment. One type of human services worker that is involved in group social work is the human relations or drug and alcohol counselor, who assists in developing, organizing, and conducting programs dealing with the causes of and remedies for substance abuse and human conflict situations.
The last type of social work - community organization work - examines and tries to alleviate the problems that can affect an entire community, such as juvenile delinquency. After social workers and other professionals devise a plan of action for addressing these problems, they work together with human services workers to reach out to the people affected, coordinate the efforts of different social agencies and groups, and improve the master plan through review and revision.
In its social case manager jobs, one of the first steps of effective social work is letting the people in the community know what kinds of services are being offered to them. This type of community outreach can be performed by a community worker or social services aide. These people visit individual people or families, and even talk with the neighborhoods or community to open up about the services for the fellows to work with, including the homeless, single parents, parolees, school dropouts, families with problems, and others who are badly needing help and financial assistance. The community worker can also help in community-wide planning by interviewing residents of specific neighborhoods and investigating the needs and opinions of the residents who are currently disadvantaged.
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