What Can Social Workers Do And Can’t Do?

A social worker promotes social welfare and helps people from different backgrounds overcome challenges. But what can social workers do and can’t do?

A social officer provides support, both mentally and physically. At the same time, he or she is not allowed to take or place anyone in custody or foster care without paperwork or approval.

In this article, I will discuss social workers, what they can and can’t do, and what to do if you find a social worker violating the law. Let’s get dive in.

What is a social worker?

who is a social worker - lmshero

A social worker’s role is to help a patient, group, or community learn to live better. They work specifically with less privileged people suffering from poverty, discrimination, or injustice.

Assigning a social worker to a patient, group, or community is to encourage and create change for them. Also, to empower, develop, promote social change, or help liberate them.

Their expertise is applicable in various sectors around the country. Some of these include; hospitals, mental health facilities, child welfare, and human service organizations.

Schools, halfway houses, adoption agencies, and private firms also use their services.

What are the duties of a social worker?

Some of the duties or responsibilities of a social worker are;

1. Building a relationship

The primary focus of every social worker is to build a good relationship with the patient. Building a good relationship is ideal, as it helps patients express themselves better.

2. Connect people with resources

This practice is also known as “social prescribing.” When a social worker is assigned to a patient, they assess the person’s relationship with the community.

This way, they can determine where a person needs improvement or connection. This practice is also common in other countries as well.

3. Offer holistic care to patients

Holistic care means providing support to a person, not just intellectually but also physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Because social workers know the importance of holistic care, they offer these services to their patients.

4. Provide support mentally

All social workers aim to promote better mental health for their patients. They assess and evaluate the patient to determine the care plan they need.

5. Support patients with substance abuse

Social workers also help patients with strong substance addictions overcome the problem. They can even provide added support by setting up transportation and doctor appointments during their recovery journey.

What social workers can do

1. Apply for an emergency protection order (EPO)

A social worker can apply for an EPO if they deem the patient to be a threat to others around them. The family is usually under the government’s care during this period. This could take up to a week or even longer if the court deems it appropriate.

2. Schedule drug test or recommend seeing the doctor

If a social worker suspects a patient is on drugs, the law allows him or her to schedule drug tests. They can advise them to see a doctor if they also feel that the patient requires a health evaluation.

3. Report any violation to the court

Social workers must report any recent illegal activities to the court for immediate action. They are bound to report immediately because keeping silent may have unforeseen repercussions.

What social workers can’t do

1. Prescribe medication for a patient

All social workers, even those that work with medical organizations, do not prescribe medications to patients. They are only allowed to recommend a patient see a doctor rather than administer drugs themselves.

2. Diagnose a patient

Except for social workers who work in mental institutions, social workers cannot diagnose a patient with mental illness. They are only allowed to recommend or instruct the patient to see a professional.

3. Assault a patient

It is also inappropriate or illegal for a social worker to harass or assault his or her patient. If social worker finds patients violating the law, they should report it rather than try to discipline the patient themselves.

4. Take a patient’s child away

A social worker cannot take your child away to foster care without a warrant or permit.

Although social workers are allowed to determine if a child is safe in your custody, they are not allowed to take your child away.

If they feel the child is unsafe in your care, they should report it to the court immediately.

And if the court deems it appropriate, they will grant a protection order permitting them to take the child away.

5. Have a sexual relationship with a patient

Social workers are prohibited from having sexual relations with patients. It must be reported immediately if he or she tries to manipulate, coarse, or exploit a patient sexually.

What do you do if a social worker violates the law?

If a social worker is found to have violated ethics, the state or province will take disciplinary action against him or her. If you find any violation, simply file a complaint.

How do you file a complaint against a social worker?

First contact the office of ethics and professional review via their official email (professionalreview@socialworkers.org).

This mail should contain the following information;

  • The first and last name of the social worker.
  • The city and state where this violation occurred.
  • The date the violation occurred (Note: they can only review cases that occurred not more than a year ago).

After the mail is sent, you should receive a response within the next 14 days. You would be assigned a consultant if they found the act to violate ethics.

This consultant will help you with the rest of the process. After the report is submitted, the social worker will be instructed to submit a response.

The request and the response will be reviewed thoroughly, and disciplinary action will be taken if the social worker is found guilty.


Can a social worker arrest a patient?

No, they can’t. A social worker does not possess the warrant to arrest a patient. They can only report the case to the appropriate authority for decisive actions.

How much do social workers earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a social worker earns between $27,000 – $46,000 yearly.

Are there male social workers?

Yes, they are. Although you will mostly come across females, there are many male social workers.

Is there a high demand for social workers in the US?

Yes, there are. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for social workers rises by 9 percent every ten years.

Where are social workers employed?

Schools, hospitals, government agencies, and community development agencies are high employers of social workers.

Conclusion: What social workers can and can’t do

A social worker’s role is to ensure he or she provides the required help for patients. However, he or she is not supposed to violate the ethics set by the government in doing so.

If you find any social worker violating the government’s ethics, you should report it immediately.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and want to know more about social workers’ ethics. You should also see the ethical principles that guide social workers.

Thanks for reading.