Can You Create Your Own Social Work Agency?

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You can create your own social work agency to provide services that help people in need. Before opening your agency though, you need to understand the rules in your state for using specific job titles, such as clinical social worker, or offering services covered by license or certification requirements, including types of therapy and treatment (see Resources.) You may choose to operate your social work agency for profit or as a nonprofit that promotes social welfare as described in the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4).

Types of Services

Social work agencies help people solve problems in their daily lives. The main types of social work services offered include mental health and substance abuse treatment, child and family services related to behavior problems and helping people and families dealing with illnesses. Because the range of service types is broad, most social work agencies specialize in a few types of service. Examples of specialization for social work agencies include addiction treatment, behavioral therapy for children or adolescents, anger management counseling and marriage counseling. Social work agencies may help clients interface with legal or government entities by helping with adoptions, receiving government benefits or finding services for food, employment and housing.

Licensing and Insurance

Most states require licensing for individuals offering services as a clinical social worker. The license requirements vary by state but usually include receiving an academic degree in social work at the bachelor’s or master’s level, completion of supervised hours of practice, and passing an examination and approval by the licensing authority. A social work agency should carry professional liability and malpractice insurance to protect individuals and agency resources from lawsuits resulting from interaction with clients.

Agency Operations

When creating your own social work agency, you should select office space that offers easy access to your client base. For example, if clients reach your services using private vehicles, your office needs parking space nearby. Alternatively, when clients are more likely to use public transportation, finding space within walking distance of bus or train lines is desirable. The office hours of your agency should accommodate client needs, which may include availability in the evening or on weekends. If your clients seek help for mental health or substance abuse problems, you should consider offering 24-hour emergency contact services.

Finding Funding

Whether your social work agency acts for profit or nonprofit, maintaining an office and personnel requires funding. Social work agencies may money for services using fixed fees or a sliding fee scale based on the client’s ability to pay. Some health insurance companies provide policyholders coverage for social work services provided by appropriately licensed or certified personnel. Nonprofit social service agencies can apply for foundation or government grants to cover the cost of providing services or help to an at-risk population.