Riverside County’s Board of Supervisors announced March as Social Worker Appreciation Month to highlight the key roles that social workers have played during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The role of a social worker is to offer aid and advocate for those who need help. This includes children living in a dangerous environment, those who suffer with drug abuse and alcoholism, and those who struggle with other mental health challenges. According to a recent study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been an increase in drug use, alcoholism and suicide ideation as a result of the pandemic.
Sayori Baldwin, director of Riverside County’s department of social services, said social workers make an impact in several different aspects of the community that the public is not necessarily aware of.
“What people do not always realize is just how much of a role we play in people’s lives,” Baldwin said. “Although we are largely associated with helping children, in reality we also help with alcoholism and drug addictions and other issues including mental health. We are advocates for people all over who do not know how to or cannot advocate for themselves.”
Certain members of the public such as school teachers and police officers are called mandated reporters, meaning if they suspect abuse or neglect, it is their legal responsibility to call social services to check on the issue. Baldwin said teachers have not been calling in as many reports lately because schools are not meeting in person.
“Most of our calls came from teachers, but with school online right now, we have not been receiving as many calls because they are not interacting with the kids in person,” Baldwin said. “It’s a lot harder to suspect neglect or abuse through a computer screen.”
Dr. Kendra Flores Carter, assistant professor of social work, said the role of a social worker is going to be more important following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So many people have lost loved ones, friends and family members to this virus that our work is going to be even more important in returning to life after the pandemic,” Carter said. “The pressure the virus has put on our lives is overwhelming. People are going to need even more support and help because they will be grieving. If an individual has not lost someone to the virus, they will know someone who has. The damage caused by this pandemic has been devastating, and the role of the social worker is more important than ever.”
Carter encourages students who want to make a serious difference in caring for others to consider a career in social work.
Kynara Dukes, freshman pre-nursing major, said she has witnessed first-hand the impactful work that social workers play in people’s lives.
“In the past, my brother had cancer and social workers would be at the hospital with us, checking in and making sure my family as a whole had everything we could need,” Dukes said. “They would check in on us children in particular and make sure we had places to stay while my parents were gone. It was really comforting and helpful to us.”
The CBU Counseling Center is currently hosting a weekly group session every Thursday for students struggling with anxiety during the pandemic.
Students looking for more information can call the center at (951)689-1120.