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Child Welfare Officer: Job Description and Education Requirements

Child welfare officers work on behalf of children to ensure a safe and productive living environment. Often covered under the umbrella of social services, child welfare officers provide assessment, reporting and advising to adolescents and families and may be required to give evidence in courtroom hearings. A bachelor's degree and state licensure are generally minimum requirements for the profession.

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Job Description of a Child Welfare Officer

Child welfare officers are generally social workers who deal specifically with assessing the care of minors. Employed primarily through state or local government agencies, they may be involved in investigations into abuse, neglect or unlawful activities. Often advocating for minors, child welfare officers must be familiar with legal processes and regulations.

A large part of a child welfare officer's job deals with ensuring children do not live in a harmful or threatening environment. As a social worker, they typically deal with emotional situations, and in some cases must temporarily or permanently separate a child from the parents and secure alternative placement. Additional job duties in a social work capacity may include reporting for and participating in court hearings, complaint investigation, home assessment and advising services.

Education Requirements for a Child Welfare Officer

Social workers usually require a bachelor's degree. While several majors may be acceptable, such as psychology or sociology, employers typically prefer a Bachelor of Social Work.. A bachelor's in social work involves courses in psychology, at-risk populations, and social research methods. Most programs include several hours of supervised field experience.

Those choosing to advance a career, work in a school setting or specialize in child social work may continue studies to pursue a Master of Social Work. Some master's programs either offer a concentration in child welfare services or offer dual-degree programs where a master's degree can be earned in child development. Graduate studies typically include extensive research and practical experience.

Licensure

For nearly all states, some sort of registration or licensure is required to work in social services. In addition to required experience , states may also mandate one or more levels of testing, depending on education, practice and type of career. Those providing social services in a school setting may need additional licensing through a state's educational board. Some states require periodic registration of practicing social work, though a few require continuing education to renew a license.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Child, family and school social workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), should have faster-than-average employment growth, of 20%, from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). However, growth may be negatively affected by the government's budget constraints. Most child, family and school social workers earned salaries from $26,720-$71,000 in May 2012, reported the BLS. The median salary at that time was $41,530.

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