She stated that she frequently refers to Social Work Codes of Ethics and Values. When HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) came into effect, protections regarding the privacy of individuals became more stringent under law regarding information stored electronically. The social worker must ask for consent from the client when disclosing information and ensure that all information is kept secure. The social worker must at all times be legally and ethically compliant with current law and the tenants of her profession.
On an emotional level, keeping a professional sense of distance while maximizing the efficacy of the profession can be challenging. A social worker must often strike a delicate balance between acceptance of the client, and honoring the client's innate dignity and worth, while still striving to push him or her forward. The social worker said that empathy was a core component of her practice. Listening and acknowledging the client's perspective is essential, even when the social worker may disagree with him or her. She believed that a good social worker recognizes the right of clients to make their choices and decisions and that the social worker's job is to enhance clients' access to resources.
The social worker primarily worked with high-risk pregnant women, which could be emotionally draining at times, although she said it was extremely rewarding when her counseling intervention reached a successful conclusion. Many of the women she counseled were engaging in negative behaviors: remaining with abusive boyfriends and spouses, engaging in substance abuse, and not taking care of themselves physically despite their pregnancy. The social worker said that she never judged her clients, however, because of her awareness of their personal histories. These women were often the victims of childhood abuse, and had few resources to obtain an education or gain a steady source of work.
One of the most important aspects of the prenatal treatment program was to ensure that the healthy behaviors fostered by the program carried over into the way the women functioned as mothers, later in life. For example, the interventions for some of the women involved enabling them to leave an abusive spouse and finding a means of supporting themselves without being dependent upon their husband. The women were motivated to do so because they feared for the safety of their unborn child. However, by helping them gain control over their finances and their lives and achieving a state of independence during pregnancy, the program's behaviors were intended to help the women continue to grow and change, even after they gave birth.
Health promotion was another critical aspect of the social worker's job. Working in consort with nutritionists and medical doctors, she helped the women gain treatment for substance abuse, if necessary, and also helped the women engage in healthier behaviors, such as improving their nutrition and going for regular medical visits. Although a social worker is not a medical doctor, a client's state of physical health can have a dramatic impact upon his or her state of mental and social health. Someone with untreated diabetes or who is too overweight to move comfortably cannot engage in the essential life skills to function in society. Ensuring that the women's unborn children had proper prenatal nutrition and care helped ensure that the children had a good start to life, and also that their mothers would know how to feed and care for their children in a manner that would promote the child's state of wellness.
In the future, I hope to become a social worker who was similarly proactive in engaging in such wellness-promotion activities. Social work is an expanding field of practice, and I hope to act to intervene to improve the health of children and mothers, much like the social worker I interviewed. Intervening at this time of life is particularly rewarding because it can make a difference and change a young person's entire life trajectory. Although the woman I interviewed did state that the work could be stressful and frustrating at times, the multidimensional, mutually supportive work environment worked to counteract this to some extent. The social worker was not simply 'going at it alone' in terms of trying to help clients. This is the ideal approach to all social problems, I believe. Few societal problems can be narrowly defined as rooted in biology, psychology, or society alone. Rather, all components of the client's life must be addressed for the client to grow and thrive.