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Child-Family-School Social Worker: Education and Career Information

The world of social work can be difficult, but rewarding. Social work is designed to provide support and assistance to those who need help in creating a better quality-of-life. There are many areas, but three main areas of social work pertain to the child social worker, family social worker, and school social worker. These roles can be very demanding and require compassion, an instinct for detecting foul play, and a willingness to go the extra mile. Child and family social workers are advocates on a number of issues, and assist with placing children in foster homes, screening parents and arranging adoptions. The life of a social worker can be an around-the-clock position, and the hours are not a typical 9-to-5 work scenario.

What does a child-family-school social worker do?

Child and family social workers work specifically with families and children who have a need. This could mean they have poor living conditions, the child may have a serious medical condition and is housed in a medical facility, or there are issues within the home that may include abuse or neglect. These workers are found in state, federal and local social service agencies, or may work as an independent entity in specialized areas. Their goal is to ensure the well-being of the child and family and work to provide assistance that will keep the child safe and the family unit, if possible, intact. Although both positions can work independently, they are considered one and the same, as they work in conjunction to stabilize the entire family. Only in circumstances when the child has been removed from the family setting does the child social worker specifically concentrate on assisting the child in ensuring their well-being and safety.

A school social worker works within the school setting to identify students who are having problems academically, emotionally, psychologically or physically that may be a result of underlying issues at home. School social workers work in conjunction with teachers and administrators to evaluate attendance patterns, schedule parent meetings and resolve situations through behavior and family management plans to make sure the student is getting what they need and the family is fulfilling their role in supporting the student. If a teacher suspects child abuse in any way, it is reported to the school social worker who has to interview the student and identify the authorities for investigation. At every level of the case, the social worker is involved, scheduling counseling sessions and working with the student and family to either place the student into a safe environment or in working with the family to pinpoint the deficiencies and offer resources to help.

How much do they earn?

Child and family social workers make about $41,000 on average, but can make $80,000 and up depending on the level of education, location and experience they have. The higher figure usually reflects someone who holds a master’s degree. Specializations also play a huge role in the amount of money a child and family social worker can make, and the type of agency they are working for. A licensed clinical social worker that works with children and families can make an annual salary of over $100,000. The salary of a school social worker is about the same, with the median salary around $58,435 in the elementary and secondary school settings. The growth in this area has been predicted to be one of the top careers through 2020, especially in the field of school social work.

What types of skills are needed to be successful in this field?

A diverse skill set is needed for these roles:

Compassion: There are a number of situations where children and families are in need. Having a high level of compassion to understand and help resolve these situations is important.

Negotiation and Persuasion: There will be times when the power of persuasion will be instrumental in getting things done. Having good negotiation skills can make the difference between getting the resources you need, or having to go without.

Critical Thinking: Knowing how to assess and tackle a number of issues for a diverse group of clients is one of the most important skills you can have. You may be told erroneous information. Being able to pick through what’s valid and what’s fiction is a learned skill that is invaluable in this field.

Management and Facilitation Skills: Managing multiple projects is part of the job. Effective management skill helps keep things in order and improves productivity.

Listening: Getting to the root of the problem will take excellent listening skills, especially when dealing with children. It’s not always what you see or don’t see – it may all boil down to what you hear. Understanding voice inflections and tone is crucial.

Speaking: Being able to speak the language to a number people on a variety of subjects will go a long way in this profession.

Writing: Every clinician and social worker must write coherently and with facts. Writing is an essential part of the job that cannot be avoided.

Research and Evaluation Skills: This is key in gathering information, assessing facts and evaluating the progress of your cases.

Internship requirements

Most programs and licensing organizations require 3,000 hours or two years of supervised clinical experience. The requirements vary based on state regulations. A number of schools have programs where they place students for clinical internship experience to understand the magnitude of the career path they have chosen.

Education requirements

At the minimum, child, family and school social workers have a bachelor’s degree, which requires four years of study. This will result in a Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW). Although someone can enter the field of social work with a degree in a related field like psychology, getting licensed is important. There are a number of positions that require an advanced degree. The child, family and school social worker usually has a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) degree because their roles are more comprehensive and involved with clients.

Coursework in this field includes biology, sociology, economics, political science and psychology. After completing a program, every person must sit for the licensing exam in their state and complete the registration requirements. Every state has specific regulations that apply only to their state, so knowing the process is key.

Students who matriculate past the bachelor’s degree and attain an advanced degree open doors for teaching and other roles such as assistant or executive director positions, program managers and in the formulation of government policy. Professors and social workers involved in research usually hold a Ph.D. or Doctorate in Social Work. Planning a career in social work can start early in life. Students who like to volunteer and help others show a direct interest in the study of social work. Becoming a peer counselor, or helping with after-school or community-based programs to help others will provide a general idea of what social workers do.

There are associations, like the National Association of Social Workers, where specialized certifications can be obtained for further career growth.

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