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Forensic social work


Forensic social work

Forensic Social Work is the application of social work to questions and issues relating to law and legal systems. This specialty of the social work profession goes far beyond clinics and psychiatric hospitals for criminal defendants being evaluated and treated on issues of competency and responsibility. A broader definition includes social work practice which in any way is related to legal issues and litigation, both criminal and civil. Child custody issues, involving separation, divorce, neglect, termination of parental rights, the implications of child and spousal abuse, juvenile and adult justice services, corrections, and mandated treatment all fall under this definition. Forensic social worker may also be involved in policy. Legislative development to improve social justice.

Functions of the forensic social work practitioner may include...

Providing consultation, education, or training to:

  • Criminal justice, juvenile justice, and correctional systems
  • Law makers
  • Law enforcement personnel
  • Attorneys, law students, and paralegals
  • Members of the public

Diagnosis, treatment, and recommendations:

  • Diagnosing, assessing, and treating criminal and juvenile justice populations
  • Diagnosing, treating, or making recommendations about mental status, children's interests, incapacities, or inability to testify
  • Serving as an expert witness
  • Screening, evaluating, or treating law enforcement and other criminal justice personnel

Other functions:

  • Policy and program development
  • Mediation, advocacy, and arbitration
  • Teaching, training, and supervising
  • Behavioral Science Research and Analysis

Forensic social work practitioners engage only in forensic activities within their areas of competence and expertise.[1]


  • Historical Development 1
    • United Kingdom 1.1
    • America 1.2
  • Role of the Social Worker 2
    • United States 2.1
    • United Kingdom 2.2
  • References 3

Historical Development

United Kingdom

The first appointed psychiatric Social Worker in London was in 1936.The British Association of Psychiatric Social Workers was inaugurated only in 1930. Most of the expertise in England and Wales has been concentrated within the Special Hospitals. – Ashworth, Rampton and Broadmoor. at Broadmoor Hospital the first qualified l worker was not employed until 1969.


Forensic social work has been done since at least 1899[2] coming out in part, of the settlement house movement, and the expansion of urban charity work.

Role of the Social Worker

The social worker bridges the gap between the two worlds of hospital and community.

United States

In the United States the Forensic social worker has a variety of functions, including social assessments for various courts including Family Court,and providing assessments and aftercare for psychiatric hospitals.

United Kingdom

In the U.K. the forensic social worker has several duties, including applications for hospital admission,when necessary, arrange aftercare and social assessments among others . The social worker fulfills the role of the Social Supervisor to specify suitable accommodations for discharged patients, and to assess risk. They provide social care reports to the Mental Health First Tier Tribunal.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Brownell AR: Soc Work. 1999 Jul;44(4):359-69.
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