Child Protective Services Social Worker: Job Description and Requirements
Child Protective Services (CPS) is a government agency that provides counseling, rehabilitation or placement services for neglected or abused children. Education, certification and licensure requirements for CPS social workers vary by state.
Job Description of a Child Protective Services Social Worker
Typically, CPS is an agency of a state's social services department and may also be known as the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). CPS social workers are responsible for accessing, identifying and documenting cases of abuse or neglect among children and finding the appropriate services to enhance child welfare.
CPS social workers must be able to identify immediate threats made to a child and provide arrangements that comply with state and federal laws and agency procedures. These duties may include, but are not limited to:
- Providing counseling and support services to children and parents
- Referring children and families to other services if necessary
- Placing children in foster care
- Finding adoptive homes for children with no adult caretakers
Requirements of a Child Protective Services Social Worker
CPS social workers are expected to have an extensive educational background and clinical experience before they can begin working with families in crisis. Requirements vary by state, but typically include a postsecondary degree, state licensing and professional certification.
While academic requirements may vary by state, most employers prefer applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree in social work from an accredited school. An academic background in psychology, counseling or related field may also be suitable.
Some agencies may offer on-the-job training to those in entry-level positions, however many prefer applicants with previous experience in social work or those who have completed an internship program in social work through an accredited school. Employers may also prefer those with strong communication skills and are fluent in another language.
Licensure and Certification
Licensing requirement vary by state; although most states require at least two years of supervised clinical training. Other requirements for licensure may include a bachelor's or master's degree in social work and skills assessment examinations.
Professional organizations, such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), offer various levels of certification for social workers. The NASW has two designations for social workers who work primarily with children and families, Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker (C-CYFSW) and Certified Advanced Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker (C-ACYFSW) (www.socialworkers.org).
Certification requirements include a postsecondary degree from a Council on Social Work Education accredited education program, clinical experience and a supervisor recommendation. Continuing education credits are required to keep certification and some state licenses valid.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Child, family and school social workers (including those working for child protective services) should have faster-than-average 20% growth over the 2010-2020 decade, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Most of these social workers earned between $26,720 and $71,000 in May 2012, and the mean wage was $45,300.
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