According to researchers working on the American Cities Project, a study sponsored by the PEW Charitable Trust, many cities across the United States are experiencing significant population growth. This population boom is a contributing factor in increasing the availability of social services and the need for social workers within these cities.
Urban populations often face poverty, unemployment, and job insecurity; and an increasing number of people have been affected by a lack of adequate or affordable housing, limited access to quality health care, and poorly performing education systems. The combination of these problems and an expanding population may indicate the need to increase the number of social work professionals working with populations in larger cities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the social work profession is expected to grow by 25% by 2020, and new social work education programs are popping up all over the country to try to keep up with the demand. Helping those in need within the urban population requires social work professionals who are able to work with diverse populations. In many cases, it is expected that social workers working in cities acquire special skills such as second language in order to be culturally close to the populations they must serve.
In many cities, gaining access to needed social services requires individuals to navigate complex bureaucratic systems. Social workers who are able to utilize their advanced problem solving and advocacy skills are key factors to successfully connecting at risk members of the population to the resources they need to survive. Combating bureaucracy has become almost common place when working to ensure that people with little or no resources have access to assistance.
A common benefit of working in metropolitan areas is that larger cities often support a greater number of social service agencies and providers. Social workers in bigger cities are fortunate to have many resources at their disposal and frequently have access to specialized services, which may not necessarily be available in smaller locations and settings. More importantly, clients have access to a broader range of services and support.
Social workers may rely on many of these resources to provide direct care to clients in need, but can also work to collaborate between agencies to ensure a more comprehensive and holistic plan of care. Advocacy and utilization of existing networks may be beneficial when seeking resources to help with individual and family needs. Further, it is essential for social workers to keep up to date and have knowledge of community resources such as non- profits organizations, secular services, and faith based programs and their ability to address the crucial needs of those seeking help.
Social workers in large cities face many unique challenges, but they also have access to unique resources. As large cities become increasingly populated with individuals in need of a diverse array of assistance, social workers may become in greater demand in these areas. These professionals will need to know how to take advantage of the social services available within large urban areas, understand how to work with diverse populations, and find creative ways to ensure the large numbers of clients they work with are able to get the help that they need.