Job Description of a Child Welfare Social Worker

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a child welfare social worker. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and continuing education to find out if this is the career for you.

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Child welfare social workers typically enter the field with a bachelor's or master's degree in social work. They help children who come from troubled families, are victims of abuse or neglect, or may have medical needs that need more attention. These workers typically are in the public sector.

Essential Information

Child welfare social workers protect children who are abandoned, neglected, abused or have special medical needs. This branch of social work requires a bachelor's or master's degree in social work. It also involves continuing education requirements to stay informed of the latest legislation in child welfare. Licensure requirements vary by state.

Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree
Other Requirements License required for clinical work
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 11% growth (for social workers)*
Median Salary (2018) $49,470 (for social workers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Child welfare social workers work with troubled families to protect children who might be suffering due to environment, abuse, abandonment or medical needs. They do this by following state and federal laws as well as agency policies pertaining to child welfare. The overall goal of child welfare social workers is to prevent a child from being permanently removed from his or her family.

Child welfare social workers are typically employed by public or non-profit agencies, schools or government agencies. No matter the place of employment, all child welfare social workers strive to place children in the safest and healthiest environment available. Conclusions are made based on meetings, assessments and investigations, and the results can vary from mandatory family counseling to permanent removal of a child from his or her home. Most child welfare social workers follow the traditional schedule of a 40-hour workweek and spend the majority of their time meeting with clients and cooperating service providers either in their office or in the field.

It's common for child welfare social workers to specialize in one specific field of child social work, such as adoption, child protective services, domestic violence or foster care. Licensing requirements for this profession vary by state.


A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) might be enough to enter the field with a smaller local agency, but many agencies are now looking for job candidates with a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Most MSW programs last two years and offer a concentration in child social work. MSW programs generally require field education in addition to classroom instruction.

Child welfare social workers are also responsible for their continuing professional development to stay current on changing legislation and current child welfare practices. Each state differs in the amount of continuing education units required each year, and some state boards only accept courses endorsed by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there could be 7% employment growth for child, family and school social workers from 2018-2028, which is faster than average. As of May 2018, these professionals earned a median wage of $46,270. Most salaries ranged from $29,550 to $76,750 at that time.

A child welfare social worker may specialize in one area of social work, such as adoption, foster care, domestic violence, or child protective services. A bachelor's degree in social work is the entry-level educational requirement for entering this field, though a master's degree is usually required for clinical practice.

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