How Become a Child Social Worker – Schooling and Degree Programs

What is Child Social Work?

Child social work is a vocation that is very important in our society due to increasing marital issues, drug and alcohol abuse, physical and sexual abuse, poverty, and homelessness. Child social workers are also known by other titles such as “Child Protective Services Social Workers”, “Child Welfare Social Workers”, and “Children’s Social Workers”.

Child social workers help investigate complaints and protect vulnerable children from violence and neglect under the mandates of CAPTA. The federally regulated Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is an act that is authorized to help protect children in this society.

In addition, every state has additional rules and procedures to enforce compliance against any type of mistreatment or lack of care regarding children.

Although the government will not intrude in a family unless absolutely necessary, a child social worker does have the authority to safeguard a child who: has health issues; does not have adult supervision; has learning or behavioral problems; or is in serious danger due to cruelty, lack of proper nurturing, and provision.

It is the social worker’s job to evaluate the quality of care that a child receives by meeting with the child and family on a consistent basis in their home environment. A child social worker can go through the proper legal channels in order to have a child taken from its home and placed in an alternative location that is safe if the situation warrants it.

If a child is removed momentarily, the social worker will attempt to restore the child to the family as soon as the safety and well-being of the child can be established.

Where Does a Child Social Worker Work?

The work environment will vary depending on which area of social work that you specialize in. Child social workers can be employed in many different types of agencies including state agencies, police departments, community centers, rehab centers, mental health agencies, schools, family service agencies, hospitals, and the U.S. government.

It is important to understand that a job in child social worker can be emotionally challenging and will often require working with families that have serious problems. The job is often very demanding, especially for experienced social workers, due to the extremely high case load. So, they are often required to work late into the evening and on weekends.

In addition, there is often a lack of needed funds and supplies from agencies in the community; legal oppositions; limited training; fear of retaliation; high employee turnover; and low earnings. Although the job does have its share of obstacles, many professionals have a desire to make progressive changes in the everyday lives of the families and children that they serve.

What Does a Child Social Worker Do?

Many times it is the responsibility of a child social worker to work with Child Protective Services by investigating allegations of life-threatening situations.

Many factors are taken into consideration including the criminal history of the parents, cleanliness and health of the children, living conditions, etc. Based on the result of the assessments, some of the following actions may be a necessary part of your job duties:

  • Looking for practical solutions in order to keep families intact including providing advice through individual counseling sessions and classes in adult living and parenting, etc. If parents do not comply, then it is the responsibility of the child social worker to explain the end result for failure to act accordingly.
  • Taking children from a home environment that is violent and placing them with families that are compassionate for their well-being.
  • Obtaining jobs and an appropriate shelter for families that don’t have a suitable residence; acquire help from non-profit organizations; assist with enrolling in the food stamp and WIC programs; and provide special tutoring classes for students who are struggling with school.
  • Helping expectant mothers, parents, and children to legally get through the adoption process.
  • Determining if a foster home is an appropriate place to place children and screening the home to ensure that the children are having their needs met and being taken care of properly.
  • Providing help to children and women that have been victimized by brutality in the home.
  • Always properly recording all steps regarding: Intervention, assessment reports, and statistical information. The reports should be accurately prepared with the proper dates and times. In addition, legal actions should be seriously contemplated and in full agreement with all state and federal laws.

What are the Requirements to Become a Child Social Worker?

Child Social Worker Degrees

The first step in your career will be to choose a college that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The actual coursework can be completed at many universities throughout the world and some degree programs are even offered on-line.

Those that are offered by internet may allow you to study at your own convenience. However, some of the programs may require you to be online at specific times for lectures and mock clinical sessions.

Bachelor’s Degree. While studying to receive your Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, you will be exposed to coursework that will teach you how to: understand human behavior, work with children and families who are in crisis situations, and interview clients. You may also learn about substance abuse and the legal aspects of social work.

  • Entrance Requirements. Admission requirements typically include sending your official high school transcript and a copy of your ACT OR SAT scores to the college of your choice for consideration. The scores will vary by college, however, the average ACT to be considered is 19-22 and the average SAT is 846-970. In addition, students seeking admission based on GED scores should send copies of those.
  • Core Requirements. For an undergraduate degree, it will normally take four years of education and will require around 120 credit hours. In most cases the degree will be referred to as a “Social Work” degree without an emphasis on a particular field.   Although colleges differ, some of the major core requirements should include classes such as: Social Welfare: Policies and Services, Human Behavior and Social Environment, Diversity Issues in Social Work, Methods of Social Work Practice, and Field Instruction in Social Work.
  • Important Career Advice. In order to gain relevant job experience, you may want to go ahead and complete field work under a licensed social worker even if your college of choice does not require it. In addition, you may want to join a student organization, your school’s social work organization, and/ or the National Association of Social Work. Likewise, if you can participate in volunteer opportunities or community service these activities can enhance your resume and give you an advantage in your job search.

Master’s Degree. If you choose to pursue a Master’s Degree, then you may gain a multi-faceted understanding of the social and economic factors regarding public health, you will learn how to supervise large caseloads, and successfully complete clinical assessments.

It is a good idea to consider a Master’s Degree because many employers are now requiring them in order to acquire a job; and some states require them in order to secure licensure.

In addition, if you plan to advance in the social work field into a position of executive director, assistant director, program manager, or supervisor; or if you plan to work in the clinical field, health field, or private practice, then you will need a Master’s Degree at a minimum.

  • Entrance Requirements. Most colleges require at least a 3.0 overall grade point average overall average on a 4.0 scale to be admitted to the program. In addition, acceptable scores are needed for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) test. (This will vary according to the university). Test scores generally have a time limit of acceptance for each university. The graduate school may also consider your application, letters of recommendation, grades, statement of purpose, professional achievements, etc.
  • Core Requirements. Most Master’s degrees will take 2-3 years. (There is normally a time limit for how long you have to complete the degree with the average being around four years from the time that you enrolled in the first class). Credit hours may vary; however, the average requirement is around 60 hours of study and normally includes at least 900 hours of supervised field instruction or internship. In addition, students are expected to demonstrate proficiency of graduate level writing abilities
  • You have the option to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). (The LCSW degree focuses on the clinical aspects of social work, is more involved, and requires more supervised field hours). Most of the degrees now come with the option of writing a thesis with the coursework that is based on a pass or fail grade. This is a good option if you plan to pursue a PhD.
  • Some of the typical classes for a Master’s Degree include: Social Work Practice, Social Work Policy, Human Behavior in Social Environment, Race Ethnicity, Gender, & Diversity, Rural Urban Social Work, Applied Social Work Research, and Field Practicum Seminar, Social Work Practice with Groups, Family & Child Welfare Policy, Family Theories & Processes, Needs Assessment/Program Evaluation, Assessment of Individuals, and Integrative Seminar. A comprehensive exam will then need to be passed based on a pass or fail grading system.

Ph.D. Degree. The Ph.D. in Social Work is a degree that emphasizes research regarding various problems in society. The degree will train you to work as a College Professor, Non-Profit Executive, Senior Social Worker, Human Services Director, or Clinical Director.

  • DWS Degree. The DSW focuses on observing human behavior in order to better understand why people act the way that they do. You will understand how to apply concepts that will prepare you for advanced jobs in various fields such as: Policy Advisory and Development, Education, or Clinical Practice.
  • Entrance Requirements. Most Ph.D. programs will take around three years to complete. Normally, it will require 45-50 credit hours and will include a dissertation and/or comprehensive exam.
  • For a graduate degree, try to locate a degree that emphasizes the particular field that you are interested in such as “child social work” and other courses that deal specifically with working with kids in general.
  • Core Requirements. Some of the types of coursework that you will study include: Human Behavior Theory: Selected Theoretical Frameworks for Social Work, Comparative Approaches to Social Work Research Quantitative Methods, Cross-National Perspectives on Social Provisions, Social Work Practice with Individuals: Theory and Research, Program Development and Evaluation, Foundations to Data Analysis, Theories & Research on Organizations and Leadership, Social Work Education: Issues and Processes, U.S. Social Work in Historical and Cross-National Perspectives, and Advanced Research Topics.

Child Social Worker Training

Most states require you to complete continuing education credits on a yearly basis in order to meet your certification requirements. You will need to check with your particular state for more information. Continuing education programs are available through organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

Child Social Worker Licensure

Most states will allow you to apply for state licensure after you complete a bachelor’s degree. However, some states require you to first obtain a Master’s Degree in social work. You will also need to pass a national exam and complete a minimum number of supervised practice hours.

In order to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), you will need to complete approximately 3,000 hours of practical work experience in the field.

In addition, voluntary credentials are offered to you by the National Association of Social Workers if you have a Masters in Social Work or a Ph.D. These include such certifications as: The Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW), the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), or the Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW). These endorsements are very important for those who go into private practice and are required and reimbursed by some health insurance providers. Depending on specialization, they can be renewed every 1-2 years.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Child Social Worker?

Typically, it can take anywhere from 4-6 years to become a child social worker including the time spent completing a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, supervised experience, and obtaining licensure.

What Can You Do With a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work?

A master’s degree in clinical social work is the minimum required degree for anyone wishing to administer psychotherapy in social work settings. The degree itself can, however, be applied to a great number of different directions.

Plenty of government positions need to be filled with social workers with this degree. For instance, institutions like children and family services, veteran’s affairs, social services, public schools, and the court system need clinical social workers.

In addition, people with this degree can work for private institutions, such as non-profit organizations, elder care institutions, rehabilitation facilities, private schools, and so on. All these workplaces have working in conjunction with clients in common.

What Skills and Qualities are Needed for a Child Social Worker?

  • Genuine Interest in People
  • Complex Problem Solving and Time Management
  • Organizational Abilities
  • Empathy
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to understand technical and legal regulations
  • Confidentiality
  • Detail-oriented
  • Active Listening Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Judgment and Decision Making
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Sensitivity and compassion for children
  • Stress Tolerance

What is the Salary for a Child Social Worker?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers make an average salary of $56,680 per year. However, salaries can be set as high as $78,000 per year. Geographical location, job title, and years of experience will all influence the actual salary that you make.

What is the Job Outlook for Child Social Workers?

The social work field is expected to grow much faster than most occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the projections show that jobs should increase by 9 percent from 2022 to 2032. This percentage will vary depending on your area of specialization.

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