The principle difference in regular social work and forensic work is that the latter involves the criminal and legal justice systems. The case assignments will be similar, except those with that entail the legal system will be relegated to the forensic social worker. Therefore, the specialty requires a solid background and knowledge of the law, including familiarity with civil and criminal matters.
In this article, we will look at where, concerning geography, as well as where, concerning sectors and places of employment. Both types of social workers, mentioned above, will work within hospitals, outpatient clinics, mental health facilities, community services’ organizations, and settlement homes.
Settlement homes can be a refuge for children, young adults, and families who need a level of care and healing due to traumatic events, such as physical abuse. An example is The Settlement Home for Children in Austin, Texas. Their Residential Treatment Center provides 24-hour care for twenty-seven girls aged eleven through twenty-one. The history of settlement houses goes back to 1886. One of the dominant ones of that era was Hull House in Chicago, founded in 1889. By 1920, there were about 500 houses nationally. Unfortunately, the University of Illinois-Chicago demolished the Hull House in the 1960s.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes data for many occupations, including social workers. Since forensic social work is closely related to regular social work, the statistics should mirror each other. According to the BLS May 2018 data, the top five states for employment are California (10,660), New York (5,790), Illinois (4,990), Ohio (3,010), and South Carolina (2,660). The metropolitan areas are slightly out of alignment with the states. New York-Newark-Jersey City and Chicago-Naperville have the two highest employment numbers at 3,690 and 3,320 respectively. Los Angeles-Long Beach is third with 1,930.
Logically, most of the employment opportunities will be within major cities. The demographics of the above cities support the need for social services. Although, police reports indicate that the violent crime rate in rural areas rose above the national average in 2018. Despite this fact, people are more likely to receive social services within a metropolitan area.
The BLS reported that as of 2016, there were 682,100 social workers in the country. The industry with the most employees is the federal government, followed by local and state government, excluding schools and hospitals. The respective figures are 15,230, 14,110, and 12,070. There is a large drop to the fourth category of Individual and Family Services with 4.840.
A quick search of federal jobs brings up an extensive list of social worker postings-the majority being in Veterans Affairs across the nation. Other postings exist in branches of the military, notably the U.S. Department of the Army.
At the local government level, there are job postings on Indeed, in various county and city mental health facilities. Duties in this position include counseling and assisting individuals, legally authorized representatives, and involved persons regarding guardianship issues. You may also need to coordinate mental and behavioral health intervention plans and services with other agencies, including the justice system.
At the state level of government, there are jobs available within Adult Protective Services, Social and Human Services, Regional Mental Health, Community Services, and Child Protective Service. Forensic social workers will find a niche in protective services as the responsibilities include conferring with the courts, conducting investigations, assessing alleged perpetrators, and interviewing victims of abuse and domestic violence, for examples.
Another job title, typically in the local or regional government sector, is a forensic interviewer. This position may interest individuals who have a combination of social work and criminal justice courses during their college studies. The job involves the forensic interview of children, adolescent, and adults who allege sexual abuse, neglect or witness a serious crime. You may need specialized training in forensic interviewing. Further information is available at the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC). Their five-day program, in Huntsville, Alabama, immerses students in lectures and interviews with real children instead of actors.
A smaller number of forensic social workers may find jobs in the corrections system. Professionals help inmates prepare and reintegrate into society upon release from prison. You may discover postings of this specialty within a state or county’s Correctional Health Care Services. For Example, Montgomery County’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, Maryland, has a Reentry Services Unit. The unit assists pretrial and convicted offenders to assimilate them into the corrections’ system. They believe this is a social responsibility to educate, discuss, and collaborate with inmates and the accused. The process begins at the time of incarceration and continues through release.