A foster care counselor provides guidance to foster families and children. They typically work for government and community services. A master's degree in a counseling field is required, along clinical experience. A state license may be required, and professional certification is offered.
Foster care counselors provide attention and care to children in a foster home environment and support for foster families before and after placement. They work directly with families, as well as with the staff of the child's school and other professionals to ensure that the child's unique needs are met. Prospective candidates should seek a master's degree in a counseling-related field and may be required to obtain licensure, depending on state regulations.
|Required Education||Master's degree|
|Other Requirements||Licensure may be required; varies by state|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||6% for all child, family and school social workers|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$42,350 for all child, family and school social workers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Foster Care Counselor Job Description
Foster care counselors care for the mental health needs of children in a foster care environment. Counselors will usually serve the whole family, rather than singling out the individual child, and will often be responsible for a caseload of several families. These counselors work an extremely full schedule, but have a lot of flexibility.
Foster care counselors are similar to child, family and school social workers; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), child, family and school social workers earned a median annual income of $42,350 as of May of 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS predicted that jobs for these social workers will grow by 6% from 2014-2024, as fast as other jobs during the same time period.
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Duties of a Foster Care Counselor
Foster care counselors meet with children and families in-home or elsewhere at the client's convenience. Duties may include the assessment of a child's needs and problem areas before and after placement, as well as working with children who need intensive intervention related to adjustment issues after placement. Interventions may include family therapy, group therapy, working with parents on the special needs of the child and working with educational and other professionals involved with the child.
Foster Care Counselor Requirements
Almost all states license and govern counseling practice. License requirements generally include at least a master's degree or a higher level of education. Desirable majors and concentrations may include elementary or secondary school counseling, marriage and family therapy and clinical mental health counseling.
In a relevant master's degree program, students typically complete 48-60 semester hours of graduate study, in courses such as human growth and development, social and cultural diversity and counseling techniques. Students must also complete a period of two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Licensees must also pass a state exam, adhere to a code of ethical conduct and complete continuing education credits annually. There is a variance in requirements among different states, so prospective foster care counselors should check with their state licensing organization.
In addition to licensure, counselors can opt to be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), which awards its own credential as a National Certified Counselor (www.nbcc.org). In some states, those who pass the national exam are exempt from a state certification exam. Becoming certified is not required, but it may make a counselor more attractive to employers.
After earning a relevant graduate degree, passing a licensing examination and work experience are required to become a foster care counselor. Optional national certification is available and can lead to career advancement.