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Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

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Social Work and Practical Matters

When your child is diagnosed with a serious illness, it impacts the entire family. Your social worker can be a lifeline.

Social workers can help your family deal with the emotional issues surrounding treatment and the practical matters of day-to-day life. A social worker is part of your child’s care team. They may even be one of the first people you meet.

If for some reason you have not met your social worker, ask a member of your child’s care team. They can connect your family to the social work department.

Pediatric oncology social worker completing forms with dad and young patient in hospital bed.

Social workers can assist from the time you first learn of your child's cancer through the end of treatment and beyond.

How social workers help

Social workers can assist from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. Social workers can work with your family to create and maintain a “new normal”.

Your child’s social worker assesses your family’s needs. Then they develop a plan to support you.

Your social worker’s notes are part of your child’s medical record. Your social worker may share information if the information is needed for legal reasons (court order), someone says they may hurt themselves or another person, or you share information about abuse or possible abuse. This includes abuse of a child, an older person, or someone with a disability.

Social workers journey alongside patients and families

“What do social workers…do?”

St. Jude Social Work Director Erica Sirrine shares a few things she has learned over the past 20+ years of being a social worker.

“You are the amazing heroes in my story and the stories of so many other social workers. You are our "why." 

Read the blog post

Every hospital is different. But social workers may assist patient families with how to:

  • Talk with your child about illness
  • Help brothers, sisters and other family members adjust
  • Pay for treatment
  • Apply for government benefits
  • Secure housing, food, and transportation during treatment
  • Help your child stay connected to school and studies as much as possible
  • Find community support resources in or near your hometown
  • Connect your family with wish-granting organizations

Social workers play an essential role in treatment.

Key points

  • Social workers can help you and your family through changes after your child is diagnosed with a serious illness.
  • Social workers can help with emotional issues as well as daily life issues.
  • Your social worker will develop a plan to support your family.
  • Your social worker’s notes are a part of your child’s medical record.

Reviewed: September 2022