Although social care jobs are often discussed as though they are a 'whole', in actual fact the roles and responsibilities assumed by workers in this field are highly diverse.  One important division derives from the type of client that a social care worker specialises in helping: child or adult.  The duties of a social care worker may be fundamentally different depending on the age range of the individuals being served.

Common roles for social care jobs dealing with children
Many social care workers specialise in dealing with areas connected to child welfare.  In this capacity, they work with distressed families to help them understand and implement measures that will promote strong mental, emotional, and physical health among the children in their care.  Such workers must also sometimes determine if the neglect or abuse of a child requires still stronger measures than mere education.  

This can be a challenging task in many respects since such a responsibility places a social care worker in the position of potentially assisting in the separation of a child from his or her parents.  Sometimes, however, such a move may be necessary.

School social work
Some care workers specialising in children will be able to find jobs in the education sector.  Here, they work with troubled children who need additional emotional or developmental support to reach their full intellectual potential.  At times, this means liasing with teachers and other staff to help implement a plan designed to address learning disabilities.  It may also involve counselling children so that they can better face the challenges of their daily lives.  

Quite often, school social workers must facilitate the routes of communication between children and their parents or other caregivers so that current problems can be alleviated and future issues averted.  Social care jobs dealing with parents may also mean that workers assist parents to support their children at school -- for example, by helping them to develop age-appropriate disciplinary consequences for misbehaviour during teaching time.

Common roles for social care jobs dealing with adults
Substance abuse counsellors actually work with both older children as well as adults, helping them to overcome addictive behaviours and substitute self-destructive impulses with healthy, productive ones.  
In this regard, social care workers may find themselves needing to coordinate services with medical personnel or with other staff at a residential care facility dedicated to rehabilitating individuals with harmful addictions.

Assisting an ageing population
Some careers in social care involve dealing exclusively with adults clients.  Caring for the elderly is one example of such a domain.  Care workers in this field may work in a residential care setting, a group home, a hospital, or even out of clients' own private homes.  Some jobs in this field involve providing services such as making sure that a pensioner takes the correct medicine each morning and night.  Other elderly clients, however, will need an extensive range of services because they are no longer ambulatory or are no longer able to meet their own basic needs.

Young or old?
The ultimate decision as to whether one should work primarily with younger or older clients will depend on a number of factors, all of them highly personal to the individual care worker.  Social care workers who concentrate on developing their skills dealing with families and children may find that they enjoy some "crossover" into their own parenting styles.  On the other hand, seeing vulnerable, elderly people get the care that they deserve has its own rewards. In any case, it is clear that the dedicated social care worker will not only earn a living serving others - be they adults or children - such a worker will also develop the high levels of empathy that make responsible, client-centred care a reality.

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