Social Workers' Guide to the Court System

Social Worker Resource
June 25, 2012 — 2,591 views  
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As a social worker, it is your responsibility to help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you are a clinic social worker you will diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues. A social worker may help support a client who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, manage his or her personal relationships, adjust to life changes (such as adoption, divorce or a death in the family) or provide treatment for substance abuse or depression. The tasks of social workers are wide-ranging, and they can engage with all types of people, populations and ages.

Many aspects of social work are affected by the law, and most professionals in the practice can expect to interact with the legal system at some point during their careers. Social workers may attend courts to ensure social justice is granted to their clients, meaning they help ensure everyone has an equal opportunity, particularly those in need, explains the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Social workers might also have to face the judicial system when working with immigration or welfare systems.

You can increase your effectiveness as a social worker during these legal proceedings by gaining a basic understanding of the different types of court systems and the role that social workers play in each of them. For example, the juvenile court system maintains that criminal behavior is a result of negative social and familial influences that can be altered with rehabilitation. As a social worker, you might direct the court officials to the social service programs for rehabilitation as well as provide the court with information about the child. It may also be your responsibility to be the probation supervisor, and you could be required to testify as a witness during the court hearings.

A social worker may also be involved with the mental health court or drug court. For instance, you may be required to contact these courts if your clients or their family member have a mental illness or a history of substance abuse. You could also be part of the task force that develops a specialized court, explains the NASW. Finally, some social workers will play a role in the family court system. You could aid in the intervention and treatment of child abuse cases, domestic disputes and similar cases.

Social Worker Resource