While many people believe social workers only step in when problems arise, they are often there from the beginning and can be a family’s biggest ally, problem solver and an invaluable resource.

At Seattle Children’s Hospital, social workers are critical to the integrated teams. As families meet with pediatricians, nurses, speech therapists and surgeons, social workers keep in touch with all team members to ensure that each patient is provided with the resources and support they need.

As a social worker in our Craniofacial Center for the past six years, I really enjoy working with our patients and families. I have worked with hundreds of families to help them navigate a difficult diagnosis, sift through medical jargon or just provide a helping hand.

In my experience, here are five things that you should know about the important role that social workers play in a pediatric hospital like Seattle Children’s.

1. We’re here to help families understand their child’s diagnosis

Often families will come to their initial appointment very stressed about their child’s diagnosis. This is especially true in the Craniofacial Center as diagnosis can be complicated, with life-long effects. While the Internet provides a wealth of wonderful information, it can also instill fear into families who may receive false information or only see images of the most severe cases online. Families may also come in with no information at all and need to start at square one. Social workers provide families with trusted information and resources to help them better understand their child’s condition and help them plan for and take care of their child.

2. We partner with families to advocate for their child – in and outside the hospital

In our Craniofacial Center, we often have patients who need to miss school for operations or treatment. Social workers know the local school systems and help families navigate so their child gets the necessary time off for treatment or receives assignments in the hospital. Once they’re back at school, social workers know that the transition can be difficult, and sometimes, issues like bullying may even arise. When things get tough and families need guidance, social workers are there to share their advice and  expertise.

3. We’re here to help families find others who are going through the same issues

A difficult diagnosis can be trying for a family. Social workers work with a patient support liaison to connect families to other families with the same diagnosis. Families can also connect at department specific events, such as our annual picnic for all craniofacial patients or a session at Camp Korey that could benefit their child.

4. We’re here to help answer financial questions that families are scared to ask

Social workers give parents access to financial assistance and help with insurance advocacy. They’re here to make sure families get every available benefit from insurance companies and to help find alternative resources when needed. We help reduce financial worry so families can focus on their child.

5. We’re here to help families problem-solve

During the treatment process, it’s often hard for families to plan for time off work or arrange childcare for siblings. Social workers help families problem solve. They know the laws that allow workers to take time off. They will also give families tips for balancing work and other responsibilities, while caring for a child undergoing treatment. Additionally, they can assess and provide resources to ensure that the entire family is cared for.

For more information on Children’s social work team or to arrange an interview with Ashley Peter, please contact the public relations team at 206-987-4500 or press@seattlechildrens.org.