Job Description of a Child Welfare Social Worker
Child welfare social workers protect children who are abandoned, neglected, abused or with special medical needs. This branch of social work requires a bachelor's or master's degree in social work and continuing education requirements to stay informed of the latest legislation in child welfare.
Child welfare social workers work with troubled families to protect children who may be suffering due to environment, abuse, abandonment or medical needs. They do this by following state and federal laws as well as agency policies pertaining to child welfare. The overall goal of child welfare social workers is to prevent a child from being permanently removed from his or her family.
Child welfare social workers are typically employed by public or non-profit agencies, schools or government agencies. No matter the place of employment, all child welfare social workers strive to place children in the safest and healthiest environment available. Conclusions are made based on meetings, assessments and investigations, and the results can vary from mandatory family counseling to permanent removal of a child from his or her home. Most child welfare social workers follow the traditional schedule of a 40-hour workweek and spend the majority of their time meeting with clients and cooperating service providers either in their office or in the field.
It's common for child welfare social workers to specialize in one specific field of child social work, such as adoption, child protective services, domestic violence or foster care.
A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) may be enough to enter the field with a smaller local agency, but many agencies are now looking for job candidates with a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Most MSW programs last 2-years and offer a concentration in child social work. MSW programs generally require field education in addition to classroom instruction.
Child welfare social workers are also responsible for their continuing professional development to stay current on changing legislation and current child welfare practices. Each state differs in the amount of continuing education units required each year, and some state boards will only accept courses endorsed by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be 25% growth for social workers from 2010-2020, which is faster than average (www.bls.gov). The BLS expects 20% growth specifically for child, family and school social workers. Child, family and school social workers in May 2012 earned a median wage of $41,530. Most salaries ranged from $26,720 to $71,000 at that time.
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