Child welfare specialists, also known as child welfare workers and child protective services specialists, provide social services, assessment, counseling and case management to children and families. Planning a career as a child welfare specialist may start with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program.
Job Outlook for Child Welfare Specialists
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)* projects that jobs for child, family and school social workers will increase by 11% nationwide between 2018 and 2028. That’s faster than the average projected growth rate for all occupations.
Employment growth will occur, in part, due to an increased demand for healthcare and social services, the BLS notes. Job opportunities should be stronger for candidates with a graduate degree and applicable licensure.
What Does a Child Welfare Specialist Do?
Child welfare specialists visit homes and other residential facilities to investigate living conditions and protect youngsters from harm. They may work independently or as part of a team of caseworkers.
Child welfare specialists also refer parents and guardians to community resources, as well as counsel children, parents, guardians and foster parents on a child’s care plan. They may evaluate the homes and resources of foster and potential adoptive parents to determine suitability for child placement.
Other typical job duties of child welfare specialist include:
- Consulting with physicians, teachers and other professionals
- Maintaining case history records
- Writing reports
Some child welfare specialists work in a particular area, such as child abuse investigation or adoption services.
Child welfare specialists work in a variety of settings, including local or state government offices. They may travel to visit with clients and work flexible schedules.
Specific settings where you can find child welfare specialists include advocacy and public policy organizations, including coalitions created by parents and other advocates. Some areas of specialized focus that might interest these professionals also include neglect prevention and disabilities/special needs.
Child Welfare Specialist Potential Salary Range
According to the BLS, the average salary for child, family and school social workers nationwide was $49,4700 as of May 2018. Annual salaries for the top 10% of earners exceeded $80,000.
Numerous factors can influence potential salary ranges and employment opportunities, including a candidate’s work history and educational qualifications, as well as regional market conditions, and the type and size of the employer.
What Do You Need to Become a Child Welfare Specialist?
Educational requirements for child welfare specialists vary based on the type and size of the employer, although a first step can be to attain a BA in Applied Psychology with a Concentration in Child Advocacy. Coursework typically includes an introduction to psychology, multicultural issues, lifespan development and psychology, learning and motivation, and critical issues in child advocacy.
A degree program in applied psychology should prepare graduates to:
- Understand and apply psychological principles, theories and research relating to child development
- Utilize critical-thinking skills in advocating for children
- Comprehend the key concepts of socio-cultural diversity
Some employers offer opportunities for continuing education to support career advancement. It may be possible for eligible employees to secure an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and then use an employer’s tuition assistance program to pursue a master’s degree.
Students who pursue an advanced education can find themselves applying to leadership roles that include:
- Child welfare agency director
- State licensing specialists
- Adoption program manager
In leadership positions, child welfare professionals not only consult but must sometimes develop strategic program implementation plans, asses, and locate funds for programs and initiatives in compliance with Federal and state laws and policies.
Should You Pursue a Career as a Child Welfare Specialist?
If you have a passion for helping others and protecting children’s rights, a career as a child welfare specialist could be a rewarding option, both personally and professionally. Other traits typically required for this role include a professional and caring demeanor, attention to detail and excellent teamwork skills.
Individuals who possess these characteristics may find that enrolling in a psychology degree program provides them with the knowledge and tools to advance their careers.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers, on the internet a thttps://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm (Accessed January 20, 2020).
National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Degree and/or certificate program options do not guarantee career or salary outcomes. Students should conduct independent research for specific employment information.