Thinking like a social worker

…any questions? Yes. I have plenty.

4 “Social Worker Types” in The Wire

on May 2, 2013

I finally finished The Wire last month (only 5 years late).  This show really got my brain moving, but I will save those thoughts for another day.  The Wire focused on different (dysfunctional) systems within Baltimore.  I enjoyed looking out for social workers throughout the series.  Social workers usually get a bad wrap in the media.  Their characters are typically child protective services (CPS) workers that are following up on youth in foster care or taking kids from their parents.  Of course, social work is a huge field of which CPS is a small, but important area.

Here are the 4 “Social Worker Types” that stood out to me:

  1. “Counselor”  – Cutti, a man just out of prison, referred to Deacon as a “social worker type” because he offered Cutti advice and counsel.  While the Deacon was not a social worker, he played many complimentary roles including counseling, connecting resources, advocating, and community organizing.
  2. Child Protective Services (CPS) Worker – The CPS worker is trying to find a new placement for a child who has been attacked.  She is stuck in a bureaucracy that fails to find the child a new placement and he is put in a group home.
  3. Academics – The bumbling professor who was out-of-touch with the real world, but earnest to learning and make the world a better place.  And his Doctoral student, who was sharp and in-touch.  It was interesting to see the contrast.  Older white male = out of touch.  Younger black female = in-touch.
  4. Homeless Shelter Worker – She worked at a homeless shelter in Richmond, VA.  She cared deeply about her clients, and was able to locate a man who left the shelter very quickly (Go Richmond!).

The above four “social worker types” were most likely not educated as social workers.  Also, additional social workers may also have been hiding in scenes about the hospital, police department, schools, and local government – We are everywhere.

My overall take on the show’s view of helpers – The show shined a light on the helpers that came from within the community, which refreshing compared to the “young white woman swoops in to save the day” story line.  Bureaucrats and outside helpers had too much red tape and lacked understanding of real community need, therefore individuals from within were able to make more of an impact.

Any other “social worker types” that people noticed in the show?  What did you think about the portrayal of social workers in The Wire?

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