Foster Care Social Worker: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a foster care social worker. Learn about degree requirements, career tasks, and job and salary outlooks to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Child Development degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Foster Care Social Worker?

Foster care social workers provide support to children and families who are part of the foster care system. Their responsibilities and job duties include ensuring that children are sufficiently nourished, checking up on their living conditions, offering support to foster parents in need of help, monitoring a child's progress and helping place children into appropriate foster families. They may also work to reunite families that have been separated through the foster care system. Foster care social workers need to have excellent communication skills and a background in conflict resolution.

The chart below provides information about the typical duties of a foster care social worker, common education and training requirements, along with the job and salary outlook.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for entry-level work; master's degree for clinical jobs
Education Field of Study Social work, psychology, sociology
Licensure Licensure often required, particularly for clinical practitioners
Key Responsibilities Help children in the foster care system by investigating claims of abuse and neglect; assisting with court cases and adoption processes; providing support to kids who may 'age out' of the foster care system
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* (for child, family, and school social workers)
Median Wage (2015) $42,350* (for child, family, and school social workers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Duties of a Foster Care Social Worker?

A foster care social worker provides support for the many problems that foster care children experience, such as limited educational opportunities, lack of support once they 'age out' of the system, and depression. In this position, you would investigate situations in which a child may be abused or neglected and provide aid to families and children. You would assess the situations, capabilities and issues of your clients and decide what services they need. If families are unable or refuse to take care of children or the children have suffered from abuse or neglect, you might suggest foster care.

In this position, you would also counsel families and children, guide adoption decisions and educate families about social services they might access. You may need to speak in court to determine custody arrangements and other legal matters. Employment opportunities for foster care social workers can be found in individual and family services agencies, schools or your local or state government.

What Should I Study?

You would need to seek a bachelor's degree in social work to qualify for a position as a foster care social worker. If you major in a related subject, such as psychology or sociology, you might be eligible for entry-level positions. A bachelor's degree program in social work would provide you with a background in liberal arts and training in social work. You would practice such skills as assessment, case management, interviewing, service planning, intervention, program evaluation and advocacy.

You would most likely need a graduate degree for supervisory, clerical and staff training positions. During a master's degree program, you would have the opportunity to focus your studies. You would develop the necessary skills to assess clients, handle large caseloads, supervise other workers and serve the needs of clients.

What Is the Job and Salary Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects jobs for child, family, and school social workers to increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024, which is considered average growth. More child and family social workers will be needed to handle child abuse cases, place children with foster families and find adoptive families for children. Budget cuts in the state and local governments, which employ the greatest number of these social workers, may limit opportunities for workers in this field.

The BLS reports that in May 2015, the median annual wage for child, family and school social workers was $42,350 (www.bls.gov). Foster care social workers are included in this group.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many different careers that you may choose to pursue within the field of social work and community health. One such option is to become a mental health counselor, offering support and providing resources to people struggling with mental health issues. You could also become a rehabilitation counselor, helping people with physical disabilities recover and adapt their lifestyles. Both of these positions are open to people who have been educated to the master's degree level. Other similar careers, such as working as a probation officer or a social and community service manager, can be attained with a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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