23 Powerful Films for Social Workers (2024)

Happy Social Work Month everyone! In honor of this special time, our team atA Small Good Thinghas compiled an exciting list of films that shed light on social work, social workers, and the important themes and issues that social workers devote themselves to every day.

While we have not seen all of these films, they have screened at various social work schools and film series and many have won awards for their focuses on social justice and social welfare. Many of them, moreover, have also been written about onSocial Workers Speak, an interactive website developed by the NASW that aims to improve the way social workers and social issues are portrayed in the media.

Film and media can serve as powerful platforms for the dispersion of ideas and can spark conversations about social and political change. We hope you enjoy a few of these powerful stories and that they spark meaningful conversations about social welfare and justice.

In honor of Social Work Month, our supporters have also been organizing screenings ofA Small Good Thingto honor community organizers and social workers, whose innovation, dedication and compassion are changing lives and shaping communities across the globe. Find aneventnear you ororganize a screeningto celebrate social workers this March!

  • Tough Loveis a documentary that follows Patrick Brown, a single white father in Seattle and Hasna “Hannah” Siddique, a pregnant Bangladeshi immigrant in New York City, as they work with the courts, social workers and Child Protection Services to bring their children home after they have been taken into custody. The film exposes the complex bureaucracy that is America’s child welfare system.Screened by the Dalton State Department of Social Work and written about inSocial Workers Speak.
  • Hidden Picturesis a groundbreaking documentary that traces deeply personal stories in India, China, South Africa, France, and the US in order to closely examine mental health-- and the stigmas against it -- on a global scale.Screened by the Dalton State Department of Social Work.
  • The Waiting Roomis a documentary film that follows the lives and experiences of patients, doctors, and staff at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California. “The Waiting Room” takes a close look at a public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients.Screened by the Dalton State Department of Social Work.

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  • The Power Brokeris a documentary film that follows Whitney M. Young, Jr. — one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders of the civil rights era— and his journey from segregated Kentucky to head of the National Urban League.The film won the 2014 NASW Media Award and was screened at the Mesa Community College & NASW-AZ Social Work Cinema Series.
  • Inequality for Allexamines the widening economic gap in the U.S. The documentary follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who reveals how rapidly income inequality is increasing in America.Screened as part of the Mesa Community College & NASW-AZ Social Work Cinema Series.
  • One Cut, One Lifefollows the life seminal documentarian Ed Pincus, considered the father of first person non-fiction film, after he is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The documentary is an intense, raw, and sometimes humorous exploration of the human condition and what is important, not only at the end of life, but also throughout it.Screened as part of the NASW MA Fall Film Festival.
  • The short documentary filmFamilies Are Forevertells the story of Mormon couple who found out their 13-year-old son Jordan was is gay. The film reveals how the couple’s support of Proposition 8 hurt their son, but also traces their growing acceptance of Jordan’s sexuality.Produced by The Family Acceptance Project and written about inSocial Workers Speak.
  • Time Out of Mindis a narrative feature film that follows George, a homeless man who struggles to navigate the streets of NYC while also working to reconnect with his estranged daughter. The film was written and directed by Oren Moverman, who sat on NASW’s Communications Network Advisory Committee. The NASW NYC chapter also helped Moverman arrange visits with local shelters so that he could make the film as accurate as possible.WrittenaboutinSocial Workers Speak.
  • InVoices: A Story about the Human and Untold Stories of Psychosis, psychiatrist and filmmaker Gary Tsai teamed up with other filmmakers to make the documentary “Voices: A Story about the Human and Untold Stories of Psychosis,” which features the stark and intimate portraits of three very different individuals and their struggle with severe mental illness in America.Written about inSocial Workers Speak.
  • Walking in Oak Creektells the story of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh community.In 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire in a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, killing six people. In the face of tragedy, members of the Temple held peace rallies to foster connection and end violence, while the Oak Creek Police Department sought to improve their relationship with the Sikh community. The documentary examines themes of violence, racial discrimination, community and healing.Written about inSocial Workers Speak.

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  • Alive Insideis a documentary that looks at a social worker’s program that uses music to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. On a hunch, New York social worker Dan Cohen, MSW, brought iPods to a nursery home to play for patients who suffered memory loss. To his suprise, unresponsive patients became more engaged and communicative when they listened to the music of their youth.Written about inSocial Workers Speak.
  • American Denialis a documentary that follow the story of Swedish researcher Gunnar Myrdal whose landmark 1944 study, An American Dilemma, probed deep into the United States' racial psyche. The film exposes potential underlying causes of racial bias still rooted in America’s systems and institutions today.Screened at the William James College Center for Multicultural and Global Mental Health.

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  • The Overnightersis an intimate portrait of job-seekers desperately chasing the broken American Dream in the tiny oil town of Williston, North Dakota. When a local pastor starts to offer down-and-out workers a place to sleep at the church, he quickly meets resistance from community, which lacks the infrastructure to house the overflow of migrants.Screened by The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy as part of its Buddhist Psychology Film Series.
  • Here One Dayis a visually arresting, emotionally candid documentary about a woman coping with mental illness, her relationships with her family, and the ripple effects of her suicide on those she loved. When filmmaker Kathy Leichter moved back into her childhood home after her mother’s suicide, she discovered a hidden box of audiotapes. Sixteen years passed before she had the courage to delve into this trove, unearthing details that her mother had recorded about every aspect of her life from the challenges of her marriage, to her son’s estrangement, to her struggles with bipolar disorder.Screened as part of the NASW MA Fall Film Festival.

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  • WithFinding Jenn’sVoice,social worker and filmmaker, Tracy Schott, MSW, brings together the story of Jennifer Snyder, the voices of survivors of Intimate Partner Violence, and the research of talented experts to draw much-needed attention to the dangerous issue of domestic violence and intimate partner homicide.Written about inSocial Workers Speakand will screen at the 2016 NASW National Conference.
  • Who Cares About Kelsey?tells the story of a school social work program in New Hampshire that reaches out to students with emotional/behavioral challenges and uses innovative educational approaches to help these students to succeed. The film follows the daily life of high school senior Kelsey Carroll, enrolled in the program, who has faced substance abuse, homelessness, and sexual abuse in her past.Screened at the NASW National Conference in 2014 and written about inSocial Workers Speak.
  • American Winterfollows eight families in Portland, Oregon that are struggling to meet their basic needs of housing, food and funds in the aftermath of the 2009 Recession. American Winter puts a face on the country's economic challenges and serves as a vivid illustration of what has been happening to families across America.Screened at the NASW National Conference in 2014 and written about inSocial Workers Speak.
  • Justice Deniedwas co-directed and co-produced by NASW member Geri Lynn Weinstein-Matthews, MSW, LICSW, and looks at the sexual abuse of males in the military. Weinstein-Matthews is closely involved with this issue. When her husband, Michael Matthews, was serving in the Air Force, he was raped by other servicemen. Matthews kept the assault a secret but suffered from depression and PTSD. The couple are using the film to educate others and to enact new military regulations and legislation to prevent similar incidents.Screened at the NASW National Conference in 2014 and written about inSocial Workers Speak.
  • Including Samuelexamines the educational and social inclusion of youth with disabilities. The film is built on the efforts of Director Dan Habib’s family to include his son Samuel in all facets of their lives, a journey that transforms each of them. The film examines barriers as well as the transformative power of inclusion in school and society alike.Director Dan Habib’s work has been written about onSocial Workers Speak.
  • The narrative feature filmShort Term 12is told through the eyes of Grace, a supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers. Passionate and tough, Grace is a formidable caretaker of the kids in her charge. But Grace’s own difficult past throws her into unforeseen confusion, made all the sharper with the arrival of a gifted but troubled teenage girl with whom Grace has a charged connection.Written about onSocial Workers Speak.

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  • The Dhamma Brothersis a documentary film that tells the incredible story of the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Birmingham, AL where 1,500 men live behind high security towers and barbed and electrical wire fences. Within this dark environment, a growing network of men began gathering to meditate on a regular basis. Director Jenny Phillips, a cultural anthropologist and psychotherapist, visited Donaldson Correctional Facility in the fall of 1999. As she met with the men, she was drawn in by their openness. High levels of apprehension, distraction and danger characterize their lives as prisoners. Even though many of these men will never be released from prison, they were thirsty for meaningful social and emotional change.
  • Buffalo Nation: The Children Are Cryingis a documentary film that depicts the tragic way of life for the rural, isolated Lakota people living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.Will screen at the 2016 NASW National Conference.
  • Sweet Dreamsfollows a remarkable group of Rwandan women as they emerge from the devastation of the 1994 genocide to create a new future for themselves. When members of Rwanda's only women's drumming troupe form a partnership with two American entrepreneurs, they work together to open Rwanda's first ice cream shop.Written about onSocial Workers Speak.

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23 Powerful Films for Social Workers (2024)


Who was the best social worker ever? ›

#1) Jane Addams (1860-1935)

Jane Addams, known as the “mother” of social work, was a pioneer American settlement activist/reformer, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, public administrator, protestor, author, and leader in women's suffrage and world peace.

What are the 5 roles of social workers? ›

For each client, the tasks you'll complete in the course of your work with them will fall into most, if not all, of the five categories — assessment, treatment, securing resources, monitoring improvement, and being an advocate — though their experience within those tasks, and yours, will be completely individualized.

What is the most difficult part about being a social worker? ›

The challenges social workers face are many, varied and serious. They range from the emotional impact of dealing with troubles like abuse, substance use, criminal activities and severe health issues to the challenges of working with marginalized client populations and the common experience of job burnout.

What is the most important thing in social work? ›

Communication. Communication – both verbal and non-verbal – is a vital skill for social workers. The ability to communicate clearly with a wide range of people is essential. It is the duty of social workers to advocate for their clients – in order to do this, social workers must understand the client's needs.

Who is 1 famous social worker? ›

Jane Addams is probably the most famous social worker of all, and she did her most famous work right around the corner from ChicagoCAC! Hull House, one of the nation's most notable “settlement houses” became a model of on-site social services (a bit like ChicagoCAC, actually) and community engagement.

What is the highest social worker salary? ›

High Paying Social Worker Jobs
  • Licensed Master Social Worker. Salary range: $54,500-$97,000 per year. ...
  • Medical Social Worker. Salary range: $55,000-$96,000 per year. ...
  • Director of Social Work. ...
  • Psychiatric Social Worker. ...
  • Perinatal Social Worker. ...
  • Geriatric Social Worker. ...
  • Clinical Social Worker. ...
  • Family Life Educator.

What are the five C's in social work? ›

Five areas that are frequently cited by the experts on task groups are the five C's: Control, Conflict, Communication, Consensus, and Cohesion. The five C' can make or break a task group experience. Groups are dynamic and fluid, which often means that the five C's will be interrelated and interconnected.

What are the three pillars of social worker? ›

The Three Pillars of the Social Work Profession in the United States: Education, Practice and Regulation.

What are the four pillars of social work? ›

Social justice, inclusion, diversity, and equity are the four pillars of outlook and action in the Grand Challenges for Social Work.

What should social workers avoid? ›

Social workers should not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.

What are common mistakes made by social workers? ›

Social workers, like all professionals, sometimes make mistakes. For example, they may disclose clients' confidential information inappropriately, fail to respond to clients' reasonable requests in a timely manner, or engage in improper dual relationships with clients.

What are some weaknesses of a social worker? ›

  • You will need to have a formal education. ...
  • You will have to pay for your formal education. ...
  • You may need a license to practice as a social worker. ...
  • You may have a heavy workload. ...
  • You may have long hours. ...
  • You may need to be on call. ...
  • You may be in dangerous situations at times.

What are the 7 principles of social work? ›

As nearly six decades have passed since Professor Biestek introduced his seven principles – individualization, purposeful expression of feelings, controlled emotional involvement, acceptance, non-judgmental attitude, client self-deter- mination, and confidentiality – I believe that present-day students and scholars of ...

What is the personality type of a social worker? ›

The average Social Worker tend to build trust quickly and value open, casual conversation. The average Social Worker tends to be an optimist who works with energy and enthusiasm. Their passion can be infectious, and their excellent social skills likely make them a naturally persuasive person.

What makes a social worker unique? ›

Social work is distinguished from other helping professions by its person-in-environment focus and its strong commitment to social and economic justice. Social workers provide assistance to people in every stage of life – from birth to old age.

Who is mother of social work? ›

Jane Addams was a pioneering American social worker known for her progressive humanitarian efforts in the early 20th century in the United States.

Who is the world youngest social worker? ›

28 years 1 months 11 days old Vaishali Sharma is the youngest social worker and did 21 social activities and broke the previous record of organizing 10 social activities.

Who is the father of social work? ›

The life and work of Jane Addams (1860-1935), founder of Hull House and Nobel Peace Prize winner, demonstrated the ethics and values that became the basis of the 100-year-old social work profession.

What state needs social workers the most? ›

Top 15 States with Demand for Social Workers
  • Oregon. Oregon is among the leading states showing an increased demand for social workers. ...
  • Connecticut. Social work vacancies are expected to grow 17% by 2028, according to the DOL. ...
  • New Hampshire. ...
  • Alaska. ...
  • California. ...
  • Nevada. ...
  • Washington. ...
  • Tennessee.
Sep 29, 2021

Which state pays social workers the highest? ›

Salaries for healthcare social workers vary by state and metropolitan region, as you can see in the charts below. California ranks as the top-paying state for healthcare social workers, with an average annual salary of $79,620.

What state pays social workers the lowest? ›

The lowest average salary in any social work specialty is in mental health and substance abuse in the state of Nebraska. Social workers will only make $35,710 in this state. Mississippi's child and family social workers aren't far behind with an average salary of $36,800.

What are six core values of social work? ›

Ethical Principles. The following broad ethical principles are based on social work's core values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.

What are the two main types of social work? ›

Social work is concerned with helping people overcome the challenges of daily living. The field is divided into two main categories: clinical and direct service.

What are the 6 steps of social work? ›

The Social Work “Helping Process”- Engagement, Assessment, Planning, Intervention, Evaluation, and Termination ASWB.

What is the ending phase of social work? ›

In terms of social work, termination is the end of treatment, ideally when a client has fulfilled or shows significant strides toward their goals. Throughout services, social workers and clients should discuss the importance of termination in a positive light.

What is an example of unethical behavior in social workers? ›

Examples include supervisors who ask social workers to exaggerate service utilization data supplied to funders, ignore eligibility criteria for agency services to enhance revenue, and alter client records in advance of a site visit conducted by an accreditation agency.

What is an ethical dilemma in social work? ›

According to the NASW, an ethical dilemma in social work is a circ*mstance in which two or more professional ethical principles conflict. Social workers learn ethical decision-making to uphold professional values, such as integrity and social justice, as well as professional principles, such as helping people in need.

What are the 12 grand challenges of social work? ›

The 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work
  • Make the most impact in the areas of greatest need. ...
  • Close the health gap. ...
  • Ensure healthy development for all youth. ...
  • Stop family violence. ...
  • End homelessness. ...
  • Eradicate social isolation. ...
  • Advance long and productive lives. ...
  • Create positive social responses to a changing environment.
Mar 12, 2018

What are the most common ethical violations in social work? ›

Even a cursory review demonstrates that social workers have been disciplined for, among other reasons, engaging in sexual relationships with current and former clients, falsifying documents, disclosing confidential and privileged information without authorization, committing financial fraud, terminating services to ...

How respected are social workers? ›

The Outlook Is Good. According to a 2017 survey, more than 90% of social workers are satisfied with their jobs and would recommend the profession to others, though they are slightly less satisfied with their pay. The median annual pay for social workers in 2020 was $51,760.

What is your greatest weakness social worker? ›

Lack of experience is a always a good weakness to mention

It's fine admitting that you lack experience, that you may struggle with something in the job because of that, with the tricky situations you will encounter while working with the clients. If you cannot think about a better weakness, go with lack of experience.

What are the top 5 social justice issues facing social workers today? ›

Social workers must engage these issues as they promote social development and change. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) notes five areas of social justice priorities open_in_new: voting rights, criminal justice/ juvenile justice, environmental justice, immigration and economic justice.

What is one of the first questions social workers should ask a client? ›

What Is One of the First Questions Social Workers Should Ask a Client? One of the first social work questions to ask clients is, “How can I help you today?” At the end of a social work client interview, some of the questions social workers ask include: “Is there anything else you'd like to share?”

What can social workers improve on? ›

Here are important skills that help social workers succeed in their careers:
  • Active listening. A large part of a social worker's duties involves actively listening to their clients. ...
  • Advocacy. ...
  • Boundary setting. ...
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Critical thinking. ...
  • Cultural competency. ...
  • Emotional intelligence and empathy. ...
  • Leadership.
Mar 28, 2023

Which country is best for social workers? ›

Best Countries to Study Social Work
  1. Germany. Germany is a fantastic place to study Social Work, with several opportunities for hands-on training. ...
  2. United Kingdom. The UK is in constant need of Social Workers, so it might be easier to gain admission to a Social Work program here. ...
  3. Norway. ...
  4. USA. ...
  5. India.

What is 1 principle of social work? ›

Principles. The overarching principles of social work are respect for the inherent worth and dignity of human beings, doing no harm, respect for diversity and upholding human rights and social justice. ‪Advocating and upholding human rights and social justice is the motivation and justification for social work.

What does autonomy mean in social work? ›

(8) Autonomy is the ability of an individual to direct how he or she lives on a day-to-day basis according to personal values, beliefs and preferences. In health and social care, this involves the person who uses services making informed decisions about the care, support or treatment that he or she receives.

What is the philosophy of social work? ›

At the core of social work practice is respect for the dignity, rights and worth of individuals as they realize their potential to become fulfilled, contributing members of society.

Which personality type is the hardest worker? ›

INTJ. Those who are introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging tend to be hard workers, Sameera Sullivan, matchmaker and relationship expert, tells Best Life.

What emotions does a social worker have? ›

However, sometimes social workers encounter a different reality, and aid does not arrive as expected, thus generating various emotions in them. The most common emotions expressed by professionals, when facing users' serious situations or when the outcome is not as expected, included anger, sadness, fear, and concern.

Are social workers introverts? ›

While it is true that social workers need to be able to relate to and connect with their clients, it is not necessary to be an extrovert or have “people skills” to succeed. Many introverts make great social workers because they are patient listeners and often have more empathy than extroverts.

What personality makes a good social worker? ›

Social workers who have a strong ability to empathize will be able to form strong connections because their clients feel they understand them and can relate to the things that are difficult for them. Similar to compassion, empathy is at the very heart of social work and is essential for any effective professional.

What are social workers passionate about? ›

Social work focuses heavily on interactions within the communities you work, and employers want to see that you're passionate about community involvement, helping others, providing support to families and individuals and using your passion to stay motivated and achieve success.

What are three personal qualities that describe a social worker? ›

Patient, caring, empathic people are able to take the time to get the communication right. In order to keep up with their caseloads, social workers have to be organised. If you are someone who tackles problems head on, you are likely to succeed as a social worker.

Who is considered as the father of social work? ›

The life and work of Jane Addams (1860-1935), founder of Hull House and Nobel Peace Prize winner, demonstrated the ethics and values that became the basis of the 100-year-old social work profession.

Who is a good social worker? ›

What makes a good social worker is their ability to understand and share the feelings of others — also known as empathy. For an individual approaching a social worker, it can often be a humbling experience to reach out and ask for what they need.

Who was known for her social work? ›

Jane Addams (1860-1935)

Perhaps the most famous and decorated female social worker, Jane Addams founded one of the world's first settlement houses – the renowned Hull House in Chicago – and received the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.

Who was a famous social worker female? ›

1) Mother Teresa: For a lot of people, the first name that comes to mind when discussing female social workers is Mother Teresa's. She was born in Macedonia during the year 1910 and, after spending around three decades in Yugoslavia, she shifted to India.

Who was the first paid social worker in the United States? ›

The First Social Worker, Jane Addams, was one of the greatest Social Workers of all time and worked for social change in the late 18th century. In its purest form, social work has been around almost as long as societies themselves have.

Who was the first black social worker? ›

Lester Blackwell Granger (1896–1976)

Lester Blackwell Granger was an early pioneer in introducing civil rights to social work advocacy, leading efforts to integrate white unions and the military, and pushing President Dwight D.

Who has had the biggest impact on social work? ›

1. Jane Addams (1860 – 1935) Considered by many to be the founder (or a co-founder) of modern social work itself and early social workers, Jane Addam's name is permanently cemented in the history of social work.

What are the weaknesses of a social worker? ›

  • You will need to have a formal education. ...
  • You will have to pay for your formal education. ...
  • You may need a license to practice as a social worker. ...
  • You may have a heavy workload. ...
  • You may have long hours. ...
  • You may need to be on call. ...
  • You may be in dangerous situations at times.

What do you call a social worker? ›

someone employed to provide social services (especially to the disadvantaged) synonyms: caseworker, welfare worker. types: almoner, medical social worker.

Who is the mother of social casework? ›

Mary Ellen Richmond (1861–1928) was an American social work pioneer. She is regarded as the mother of professional social work along with Jane Addams. She founded social case work, the first method of social work and was herself a Caseworker.

Who is the youngest social worker? ›

- VAISHALI SHARMA (Uttarakhand, India)

Who employs the most social workers? ›

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs is currently the largest employer of social workers in the United States.

Are social work degrees hard? ›

Yes, earning a master's in social work is demanding. It's also rewarding, not in spite of, but because of its level of difficulty. A social work master's program will challenge you in ways that prepare you for the challenges of daily life as an effective, fulfilled professional social worker.

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