Child, family, and school social workers offer assistance to children and youth as well as to their parents and guardians. Many are in child welfare. They work with families where there has been abuse, or where there is serious mental or physical illness. They may help parents find resources they need so that the children can stay in the home or return to the home. Sometimes this is not feasible; then they have a hand in finding other placements.
Social workers also work with children who are in stable home environments. They respond to crises in the classroom and assess and counsel school children who are experiencing stress, acting out, and/ or being targeted by bullies; some conduct groups targeted toward prevention. They also conduct trainings, make referrals, and serve on interdisciplinary teams.
Social workers also provide support and therapy to children who have experienced traumas, losses, or extra-familial abuse. They work with youth who are experienced serious problems.
Work settings are varied. Some social workers have offices in public elementary or secondary schools; they may be stationed at one school or have responsibilities at several. Other social workers work for governmental organizations, residential care facilities, adoption agencies or other social service agencies. Their job duties may take them out into the community. They may, for example, visit the homes of parents or prospective guardians. There are times they need to testify in court.
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Education
Students can pursue social work at the bachelor’s and/ or master’s level. Bachelor’s programs prepare the generalist for casework and service delivery with individuals and families. Master’s programs offer better preparation for the would-be specialist.
It is possible to do a concentration in child, youth, and family social work at the graduate level. Another option is school social work. Specialized education typically takes place in the second year. Students learn about the many issues that influence child development, including cultural and socioeconomic status. They get a foundation in child welfare policy and delivery systems. They typically put in hundreds of hours getting practical experience in family service agencies or other settings that serve youth. There may be electives in areas like foster care or meeting the needs of troubled youth.
Continuing education is usually a requirement for license renewal. Child and family social workers may seek out opportunities in their practice area. School social workers, for example, may turn to the School Social Work Association (and its state affiliates) for resources.
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Licensing and Certification
Master’s level social workers are licensed in all states; in many, baccalaureate social workers are licensed as well. The highest levels of licensing require two or three years of supervised work experience.
School social workers may be subject to different regulations than those who work in other settings.
Social workers can also pursue voluntary certifications as an adjunct to their license. The National Association of Social Workers offers several relevant specialty credentials. Baccalaureate social workers are eligible to become Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Workers. Master’s social workers can become advanced practitioners in this field.
Social workers at the master’s level are also eligible for the Certified School Social Work Specialist credential. Certifications are based on post-degree experience as well as continuing education.
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Salary and Career Outlook
The BLS projects 20% growth for child, family, and school social workers, noting that government budgets will be a big factor in determining how many jobs there actually are.
The Workforce Center of NASW has conducted studies of social workers in different settings. The latest figures give a median salary of $61,000 for school social workers. Social workers who work for social service agencies in the child/ family arena report $56,900, those in the adolescent arena, $46,000.