Dynamic Cases in Social Services
Common Obstacles for Social Services Workers
Mention the phrase “social worker,” and most people think of an overworked, underpaid individual struggling to help families who desperately need the help of social services. That image isn’t far from the truth. While working in social services is often an emotionally fulfilling career, some facets of this industry make the job very demanding.
If you’re a licensed social services worker, you probably handle a large caseload. Each case represents a family or a person who has specific problems that require the assistance of one or more social services agencies. You make personal visits to homes, attend meetings at other departmental sites, make arrangements for medical or legal appointments, or appear in court. On a typical day, you might craft a long-range plan for a client’s future, help someone apply for Medicaid, or find yourself in the midst of a domestic violence dispute to intervene on behalf of children.
Each case can take months or more to close, requiring monitoring and follow-up. You must constantly assess the needs of your clients and refer them to other professionals when necessary. Your job is to create strategies to help people navigate their lives when things become too difficult to manage.
What Do These Things Have in Common?
Every single one of these steps requires thorough documentation. Many of your cases end up in court; not only might you be asked to testify, but the accuracy of your record-keeping may be placed under legal scrutiny. Sometimes a case may change in nature as you investigate; for example, you may begin with the understanding that you are investigating a family with a domestic violence history, until your careful note-taking tips you off that there could be child abuse occurring in the home.
Additionally, most social services workers have such a large caseload that the sheer volume of clients makes it difficult to remember every detail. A case could be touched by many social services employees; it is vital that each of them have access to all current information on each case at all times. If a caseworker is a week behind on case notes and a police officer on a disturbance call checks the notes for recent history, that officer won’t have current information.
What Kind of Tools Will Help Me?
The use of technology to accomplish this documentation is essential. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that among the typical daily duties of a social services worker, maintaining accurate case records and preparing reports is the fourth most common task after counseling, interviewing and serving as a client liaison. If you’re a social worker, no doubt you’ve spent many a late night catching up on your own case records.
A dynamic case management platform will ensure that everyone who has access to a client’s files can review and update reports, even across social services agencies. Cloud-based platforms are even better, allowing anytime/anywhere access to data. Consider again the police officer called to a family’s home with a history of domestic violence: the ability to immediately tap into the most recent notes from a home visit could impact how that situation is handled.
Case notes could be recorded instantly with the aid of a tablet, instead of waiting until you get back to the office, or until three days later when you find the time. Additionally, online event diaries can keep everyone involved in a case current and ensure that no one’s time is wasted on missed meetings. Any social services agency, large or small, stands to benefit from this kind of case management platform.
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