What Does a Child Welfare Social Worker Do?

The child welfare social worker aims to provide protection for children on a holistic level, addressing physical, emotional, and environmental concerns. They work with children who come from situations of abuse, neglect, or other negative treatment.

Social work in the realm of child welfare often centers on intervention for children. The child welfare social worker enters the situation when the child is under duress, providing a safe and compassionate advocate who will provide consistent support as the child’s circumstances and plan for future care are considered.  Experts in the field have developed the ability to approach a situation with an unbiased perspective, to take a variety of important factors into account, and to choose the best course of action through careful evaluation and planning.

Typical Roles and Responsibilities of Child Welfare Social Workers

The child welfare social worker focuses on case management and supervision. Case managers handle many aspects of the child protection services process, including:

  • home visits to evaluate children’s living situation
  • assessments of caregivers
  • overall evaluation of children’s environment
  • placement in protective custody, foster care, or an adoptive family

Many roles in the child welfare field are found in government agencies. States’ titles for these agencies vary but may be known as the Department of Children and Families or Child Protective Services. In addition, private organizations and charities focusing on child welfare may offer positions to case managers and social workers.

It is important to note that this is a high-stress field, where social workers and case managers need to be prepared to handle challenging situations. While difficulties do arise, child welfare work can also be very rewarding, as specialists often make a tremendous difference in the futures of children.

Child Welfare Social Worker Average Salary

Salaries in the field of child welfare vary a great deal based on the employee’s role. Case managers earn an average of $35,000/year, while licensed social workers and those in supervisory roles often earn more.  Since many roles in this field are in government agencies, child welfare specialists may be able to access government insurance and ancillary benefits.

Education & Experience Requirements for Child Welfare Social Worker

Beginning-level case managers may enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in a human service field, such as psychology or social work. However, higher-paying and supervisory roles in child welfare organizations may be offered primarily to licensed graduates of bachelor-master of social work programs.  Most social work degrees offer some coursework specific to addressing the needs of children, though, particular states may require additional classes or credentials. Learn more about state social work licensure requirements.

In addition, experience from an internship or volunteering – perhaps as a guardian ad litem or another similar role – can help child welfare specialists to enter the field with experiential knowledge.

Learn More

Are you looking for an online MSW program?

Check out our featured MSW programs - all 100% online, CSWE-accredited and flexible enough to fit into your existing schedule.
Learn More