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Essential Skills for Social Work Practice

Essential Skills for Social Work Practice

A Single-Parent Family is a family structure that I am familiar with. Tosha Stone, a friend of mine, is a single mother of two children, ages three and seven. She is 36 years old and lives with her mother and aunt due to her recent divorce from her husband. She has always been a stay-at-home mother with little work experience. She is having difficulty finding work in her rural community. Her car isn’t running well and will require a transmission replacement soon. Her mother’s health has deteriorated in the last year, and because she lives there, the state will not cover in-home care assistance. This is now entirely her responsibility. She is not computer savvy, and she has requested that I sit down with her and assist her in completing applications for food stamps and childcare assistance. I work full-time and am unable to assist her. Because she has yet to apply for this assistance, she is relying on her mother and aunt to care for the children while she looks for work.

“The traditional family configuration (two parents, one a mother who remains at home to provide full-time care) is becoming less and less common,” according to “Understanding Generalist Practice” (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2018, p.371). Her inability to access resources as a single parent can “have a wide range of serious effects on a family’s ability to function” (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2018, p.372). She has access to community resources, but a lack of daycare, insufficient transportation to find work/available resources, and little to no employment history limit her ability to progress. When she called the workforce center to inquire about job opportunities and one-time cash assistance, she was told that she would need to attend mandatory classes every Tuesday in order to receive services. She is not permitted to bring any children with her. This is difficult for her because she does not have childcare. She is also dealing with mental health issues as a result of her depression. According to the reading, “Single-parent families are at high risk of financial hardship, which may impact psychological well-being,” as stated by Stack et al. (2018). The services are available to her, but she is unable to access them due to a lack of knowledge about available resources, childcare assistance, and time to devote to their job search.

Her mother raised her as a single mother while going to school and working two jobs. She instilled independence, resilience, and dependability in her. When her mother was in need, she was never too proud to seek assistance. My friend adopted these characteristics. Based on these strengths, I have no doubt that she is fully capable of overcoming these challenges. She is determined to reclaim her family’s stability and full independence as a successful single parent. Her mother and aunt have also been a strong source of support for her. Despite her mother’s illness, she strives to assist in any way she can. She currently has food, shelter, and transportation. This is because her mother has an open-door policy. She has never refused her assistance when she has needed it. The various roles of support that her mother and aunt play help her and benefit the family. A social worker’s understanding of her cultural background will help her understand how she was raised and where her weaknesses and strengths stem from. Inquiring about how she was raised, who her family members are, what roles they play, what is important to her family, and so on will help the social worker gain a better understanding of cultural perspectives and assist in identifying her needs and concerns (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2018, p.378).

“Today, no set of stages for a “typical” family life cycle is adequate or comprehensive” (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2018, p.361). Because of the many different dynamics, the family life cycle fluctuates greatly. Her divorce has had a significant impact on her family life cycle. “Divorce and remarriage are common, wreaking havoc on family life” (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2018, p. 361). When society sees a single parent, it can be very judgmental. Society assumes that all single parents are on welfare, that their children are impeding their success, that the parent will be unable to provide a good life for their child, and that there may be potential abuse. These stereotypes frequently tear people down, causing problems for struggling parents. Oppressive social forces such as classism have also resulted in the reorganization of family life cycle patterns (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2018, p.361).

I would apply the Ecological System Theory if she were my client and I was her social worker. Using this approach will help me understand if and how different environments may influence her situation in different ways. Micro, mezzo, and macro social interactions will be most useful in determining how each affects the others. Factors in one system can influence and change another. She is not simply influenced by her surroundings; she actively participates in her own circumstances and development. The first level is the microsystem, which focuses on who she has regular direct contact with. This includes her mother, aunt, and children. The mesosystem is the second level. “The ecological model assumes that an individual’s development is enhanced if the mesosystem—that is, the relationships among the microsystems—is consistent and positive,” according to “Readings On The Development of Children” (Gauvain & Cole, 2005, p. 25).

This system considers not only the impact of her immediate, close relationships but also the impact of her close indirect relationships in her surrounding environments, which may have a significant influence on her life. This would be her children’s school in her case. Despite her difficulties, she is very active in the children’s schools, which she finds very therapeutic. The macrosystem is the third level, and it focuses on cultural influences. “The macrosystem is a social blueprint, consisting of cultural values, belief systems, societal structure, gender-role socialization, race relations, and national and intonation resources” (Gauvain & Cole, 2005, p. 25).

It is not uncommon in her family culture for a woman to raise children as a single parent. Her mother instilled in her good morals and values; she taught her not to be too proud to ask for help, that family comes first, and that independence is important. Because she is a single parent and lives in poverty, she has become a victim of society’s classism stereotype. This stereotype has a negative impact on her self-esteem and dignity as a person. “The microsystem consists of the overarching pattern of micro-, meso-, and ecosystems characteristic of a given culture or subculture, with particular reference to the belief system.” Gauvain and Cole (2005), p. 25.

Based on her situation, assisting her with accessing local and state services to obtain employment, food, shelter, and childcare assistance will be extremely beneficial. Her self-worth and dignity will be restored once she regains her independence. She is extremely fortunate to have such wonderful support in the form of her mother and aunt. The resources are there for her to use in order to overcome her difficulties.


Kisrt-Ashman, K.K. and Hull, G.H. (2018) Understanding Generalist Practice (8th ed.) Boston, MA Cengage Learning.

Stack, R. J., & Meredith, A. (2018). The impact of financial hardship on single parents: An exploration of the journey from social distress to seeking help.Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 39(2), 233–242. Retrieved from: 017-9551-6

Gauvain, M., & Cole, M. (n.d.). Readings On The Development of Children (4th ed.). Retrieved from: hl=en&lr=&id=0VIROZKuKNsC&oi=fnd&pg=PA3&dq=Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1989 ecological model&ots=8p94PVtcWB&sig=- k6f3eWOGP1rXWNoG8truIqWsRg#v=onepage&q&f=false


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Essential Skills for Social Work Practice

Essential Skills for Social Work Practice

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