Careers: Social Services Specialist
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) offers a wide array of social services to the citizens of Oklahoma including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food benefits, day care assistance and medical benefits. Social services specialists assist clients through determining their eligibility and approving benefits. They also assist clients by recognizing client needs and providing services in a timely manner. Social services specialists may refer clients to other state of Oklahoma resources or service organizations to ensure they receive the help they need. A social services specialist works with TANF recipients “Working in TANF truly gives you a uniue ability to positively influence the lives of those experiencing hardships. We help our clients develop an employability plan to gain the skills needed to compete in today’s job market and find employment. We support our clients by helping them remove their barriers to education and employment. The program truly exemplifies the DHS mission of helping individuals and families in need help themselves lead safer, healthier, more independent and productive lives.” – H.F., Social Services Specialist II, Oklahoma County, bachelor’s degree in political science Some social services specialists work exclusively with Oklahomans who are aged, blind or disabled “Working in Long-Term Care and ABD (Aged, Blind and Disabled) programs allows me to help elderly Oklahomans and people with disabilities, as well as their families, during difficult times.” – A.P., Social Services Specialist II, Cherokee County, bachelor’s degree in psychology The majority of social services specialists have a comprehensive caseload of clients who may receive food benefits, medical benefits and day care assistance “As a comprehensive social services specialist, I am responsible for determining eligibility for the food benefits, medical and day care programs. I calculate income, determine eligibility and then work the case in order to get the clients the benefits they deserve.” – A.A., Social Services Specialist II, Oklahoma County, bachelor’s degree in anthropology What makes a successful social services specialist? Computer proficiency; Effective organizational skills; Ability to comprehend and apply complex policies; Excellent verbal and written communication skills to communicate with clients of all education levels; Strong sense of community involvement and the desire to make a positive difference; Patience; Time management skills; Ability to be compassionate and non-judgmental; and Team player. “A social services specialist needs to be flexible, especially in regards to their personality. They wear many hats. Not only do they perform as caseworkers – moving the paperwork and completing processing as quickly as possible – but they must also have a mind for the needs of the client and as a social worker, be willing to counsel with the client to better meet his or her needs.” – C.G., Social Services Supervisor, Oklahoma County Social services specialists describe a typical work day “I generally spend at least 2-3 hours a day interviewing new clients to determine their eligibility. Then I spend a few more hours processing their cases. This often includes income calculation. The rest of the day is dedicated to serving my current clients.” – H.F.“A typical day in the life of a social services specialist can be hectic, and the ability to multi-task is important. Appointments, assistance referrals, case work, policy research, continued training, unscheduled client walk-ins and telephone calls will generally fill the day. But it is good to be busy! There are peaks and valleys just like everything in life.” – S.S., Social Services Specialist II, Wagoner County, bachelor’s degree in business management“A typical day for me is usually with one of my nursing home clients calling me to come get them out of the nursing home! I really enjoy my job when I hear my clients say how much they appreciate my help, or because I've taken the time to sit and listen to them. A low for my job is when somebody does not qualify, and I have to hear the client say, 'Why does everybody else get help, and I can’t.' You try to explain to them that you don’t make the guidelines, but they don’t understand.” – A.P. Social services specialists list the advantages for working at DHS “The work environment is such that people are readily willing to share knowledge and empathy. You won’t be alone. I love the opportunities I have been given to help people help themselves. I love the people that I work with. They are genuinely caring, hard-working individuals. I love the conveniences that the job opportunity has afforded (life balance).” – S.S.“This was a job in which I felt I could make a difference, as well as have the human interaction that I like so much. My biggest reason for continuing to work for DHS is the people I work for and with. It feels like one big family! I also enjoy helping my clients. When I can help the truly needy, it makes me feel like a better person.“ – A.A.“I thought I was making a wise career move when I left DHS, but soon realized I had not. I missed my DHS family and the closeness that we share. I learned the hard way that money is not everything.” – L.N., Social Services Specialist II, Bryan County, bachelor’s degree in criminal justice Eligibility criteria Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline or a minimum of 4 years of professional social work experience or an equivalent combination of education and social work experience. How to apply: Visit the Office of Management and Enterprise Services' Human Capital Management Division Web site at http://www.ok.gov/opm and click on OKCareers to view current job announcements for specific locations. Complete the application online. Applicants will be notified by e-mail of the deadline for completing the required merit test to be eligible for consideration.