fix your hair different. You hear familiar words--yours--coming out of her mouth, and you realize she's caught the meaning of what you've been saying.
You'll begin to see little signs of respect--for you and for herself.
It doesn't always happen that way, of course. Not eight times out of ten, or even five times out of ten. But it happens. And when it does, you'll know that even if it happens only one time out of a hundred, it's enough [ Hanson, 1958, pp. 20-21].
And, as a psychiatrist once said in reflecting on the realities of his profession, "every once in a while we are, beyond a doubt little saviors: and help weather a crisis, dispel a dread, release a growth, a lasting change for the better" ( Lederer, 1967, p. 36).
Child welfare, as a social institution established by society to perform specific functions in meeting human needs, has a defined structure, designated statuses and roles, an explicit value system, goals, and operational principles. It can, then, like any social system, be described in sociological terms.
The typical child-welfare worker is a white woman of middle-class background working as a caseworker in a public child-welfare agency located in an urban, industrialized area. She made a decision to go into social work during her last years in college, or shortly after graduation, after majoring in social science and attaining average grades. She is not likely to have a master's degree in social work. In one out of four cases, she is likely to leave the agency because of marriage or childbirth or to move with her husband to a new job. In 1979 she was earning about $15,000 a year. She was attracted to social work because she likes to work with people, because it offers an opportunity for service to others, and because she felt she had the attributes and interests that would make for success in the profession. She tends to be less interested in the extrinsic rewards such a position could offer. If she remains with the agency, promotional opportunities are likely to be limited because of her lack of full professional training.
A smaller group of child welfare workers do have a master's degree in social work, and their career line involves promotion upward in the agency hierarchy and away from direct service to the client. Salaries for fully trained workers were some $3000 a year higher than those for holders of bachelor degrees, and salaries for men are generally higher than those for women. Men also advance more rapidly than women to positions of executive responsibility.
The prestige level of social work is high among all occupations but relatively low within the family of the professions. The public image of social work is a positive one, even if there is considerable vagueness as to what social work is and what the social worker does.
The profession has established an organizational apparatus for the promotion of professional interests, the maintenance of standards, the protection of the client, and the induction and training of recruits. The relevant organizations for the child welfare worker are the National Association of Social Workers, the Child Welfare League of America, and the Council on Social Work Education.
Some of the more significant occupational problems faced by the child welfare worker include the following: