Social Work in Child and Family Mental Health

by Tamara Kerr MSW RSW, MSc OT, Social Worker at the Toronto Children’s Therapy Centre


Photo by: monkeybusinessimages on istock

I once sprained my ankle at the park.  My daughter asked me to push her on the swing, and I was like, “I can’t walk” and she said, “Well, you could crawl!” And that’s everything you need to know about raising children.

No Idea: Daddy Blog, @ byclintedwards, 10:06am, July 26, 2020

Parenting is hard! Sometimes we need help. Sometimes our children need more or different help than what we as parents can provide. Social work is an option.  Social workers can work with children and families to identify challenges and develop new and different ways to approach these challenges.  My role as a social worker is to be your teammate through the various challenges of parenting as your child is growing up!

What is Social Work in the context of child and family mental health work?

Social work services include providing families with education, support, and consultation regarding day-to-day challenges, chronic challenges, or crisis situations. In work with children and families, a social worker would help to identify the source of stress or challenge, to develop or strengthen coping skills, and to find effective solutions. (OASW)

Working with a social worker might involve exploration of individual emotional trauma, relationship challenges, and other child or family skill development and counselling. It may also involve advocating with you for supports and/or joining or referring to existing supports within your community. (CASW)

What can Social Work do for you, your child, and your family?

A social worker can provide emotional support for parents, listening to each family’s unique challenges, and developing a plan for positive change.  A social worker is a person to talk to; someone who will listen and give parents an opportunity to talk about their feelings, challenges, and life experiences.  Further, a social worker can help families and individuals in processing new diagnoses, including exploring and discussing treatment options or working with children individually to meet their goals within the context of a diagnosis.

Specifically for children, counselling can provide a safe environment to explore concerns and worries. A social worker can work with a child to develop goals and strategies for addressing social or emotional problem areas.  This might involve processing relationship concerns related to family and friends, family dynamics or conflicts, difficulties with social skills, mood and anxiety fluctuations, and provide help in managing various life transitions and tasks, such as starting school or navigating friendships.

 How the Toronto Children’s Therapy Centre can help

I am a social worker and am here to help! I work with all ages of children (0-18) and their families. I am experienced in helping to make changes when challenging situations arise.  Whether these challenges are associated with behaviour or emotion regulation, executive function, or mood disorders.  I will work with children and their families in various formats, according to what works best for all.

For example:

  1. I can work with parents to address specific challenges, explore the emotional context, and develop concrete strategies for supporting positive change.
  1. I can assist the child or adolescent to address identified challenges and to develop personalized coping strategies and management plans.
  1. I can help the family unit to identify strengths that can be used to promote positive relationship dynamics and strategies to use in challenging situations.

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding emotional regulation, disruptive behaviour, or parenting in the face of such challenges.  For more information about our services, please visit the TCTC website to learn about available programs.


Canadian Association of Social Workers (2020).  Scope of Practice Statement.  Retrieved August 14, 2020 from

Ontario Association of Social Workers (n.d.).  How a Social Worker can help you.