Potts, Michelle - Child Welfare Worker

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Job title: Child Welfare Worker (http://www.cpa.ca/students/career/careersinpsychology) General overview The child welfare workers use government practices and standards which protect children who may be vulnerable to abuse and maltreatment. Moreover, they assist families in developing healthy practices to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child. They provide support and government assistance to families to assist in the development of the child in the home. A child welfare worker protects children through investigating children who are reported as mistreated. Depending on the situation, adoptions or foster care may be necessary. (http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/childrensaid/childprotectionstandards.aspx) Job duties and responsibilities Reports made by police, teachers or the general public who suspect child neglect, are given to the agency the child welfare worker is employed by. The child welfare worker will then review the case. These reports are completed when there is suspicion of a child being neglected or maltreated. Situations vary greatly, however once the investigation is deemed as abuse or maltreatment, the child welfare worker will contact government agencies and community services which can support the family and the child. The worker will offer these services to the family. Types of service offered include, but are not limited to the Salvation Army, food banks, addiction facilities, employment agencies and supportive housing dependent on the individual’s situation. In other instances, the child welfare worker may arrange for the child to be situated with other family members, foster families or a licensed group home. Moreover, the child welfare worker assists older youths with many of the above mentioned services for when they are ready to live independently, or are leaving their foster home. (http://www.beststart.org/resources/anti_poverty/pdf/child_poverty_guide_rev.pdf)

Typical workday A child welfare worker will receive a referral or a case where there is a belief or suspicion that a child is being abused, neglected or maltreated. From this referral, the worker will obtain as much information from the referent as possible. This includes a description of the child in the suspected threatening situation, family history, the family’s primary language, available community resources in their neighborhood and how accessible the alleged abuser is. From this screening, the child welfare worker will decide the most appropriate action, which varies from each case. Some will require community assistance and the child welfare worker can get the family in contact with such programs within 7 days from the referral. If the child is in immediate danger, an investigation and intervention from the child welfare worker agency must be done within 12 hours. Within 24 hours of a report, the information is gathered about the family, the referent and the dangers the child may be in. A decision concerning response time is made with documentation including supportive reasons why this response time has been decided on. Once a report is made, a child welfare worker will interview the child and the parties involved in the suspected maltreatment. Furthermore, they will observe any abnormal behavior or physical characteristics, such as bruises or burns, which may indicate child abuse. Once it has been decided that neglect has occurred, family counselling and therapy will be offered to the child and those involved. If the child’s life is in immediate danger or the intervention strategies do not benefit the child, a last resort is to remove the child. Once a child is removed from their home they enter foster care. Dependent on the situation, there are visitation rights for the primary caregivers. The ultimate goal is to protect the child and reintegrate them into their home, providing it is a safe environment.

A typical work week varies, but is typically 30 to 50 hours of work.  Child protective agencies, such as children’s Aide can be 24/7. Because abuse can be reported at any time, a child welfare worker’s hours may fluctuate from day shift or night shift. Recently there has been an increase in the technology at the disposal of child welfare workers. This includes technology for tracking clients, data and long term outcomes of children who received support. Moreover, other technology such as emails, allows community support groups, the child welfare worker and colleagues to interact quickly with one another to gather information about the family, the child and assistance available to them. These tools also enable the child welfare worker and families to stay in touch with one another via e-mail or cellphone calls and text messages. Cameras, emails, smart phones and laptops are all efficient tools that help this type of employment. With the emergence of notebook, case files are documented quickly and can save up to 5 hours of work in a week. (Whitaker, Meruvia, & Jones, 2010). 

(http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/childrensaid/childprotectionstandards.aspx) (http://workforce.socialworkers.org/studies/2010/Child%20Welfare%20Technology%20Tools.pdf) (http://careersinpsychology.org/become-a-child-welfare-social-worker/) Educational requirements A Bachelors’ degree in social work or psychology is mandatory to be a child welfare worker. It is highly recommended to have participated in an internship or volunteer experience where the person receives training and experience from these opportunities. Depending on the institution, they may require a graduate degree such as a Master’s of Arts in social work, which should be directed towards child welfare. The Children’s Aid Society does provide further training for their employees. New research provides opportunities for the child welfare worker to learn better strategies to detect abuse and types of abuse that may show different symptomatology in the child’s behavior or personality. Educational requirements are standard across Canada when working with the vulnerable population. However, training opportunities may vary depending if the agency is government run or non-profit. Post graduate programs are available to students who have a BA in psychology or social work. Wilfrid Laurier University dedicates their program to family, group and individual based social work. University of Toronto offers students a Master’s program in social work. Moreover, the students can get a Doctorate of Philosophy if they wish to continue their education. The Children’s Aid Society recognizes this program. York University has a social work program where their students are encouraged to develop their own philosophies and skills. McGill University, situated in Montreal, provides skills and the education necessary to assist children who are bilingual or who speak French. This Master’s program is recognized across Canada and the United States. Dalhousie University’s program philosophy is to build social equality within the society. They are flexible, offering both online and in class options to further one’s education. (http://education-portal.com/articles/Child_Welfare_Case_Worker_Job_Description_for_Students_Considering_a_Career_as_a_Child_Welfare_Case_Worker.html) http://www.canadian-universities.net/Universities/Programs/Social_Work.html

Related skills, interests, and abilities 
Child welfare work may be stressful due to the environment of witnessing and assisting children who are abused and who are vulnerable.  Because child maltreatment is unfortunately prevalent, a worker may be given a number of cases to work on, which would require a high degree of organization and time management.  This area of employment requires a high degree of resiliency because the work environment is very emotionally taxing. The decisions to remove a child from a home can be very difficult, therefore a worker must evaluate all aspects of a situation, think critically about the decision being made and rely of one’s own judgment of the event. A worker must have a high degree of common sense. Some homes may be dangerous or threatening to enter. The worker must be aware of these possible threats.

(http://work.chron.com/job-description-child-welfare-social-worker-18013.html) Relevance of Psychology undergraduate degree From the psychology program at Brock University, many of the courses provide insight into the field of child development and adolescent development. These courses provide knowledge about how a maltreated child may appear as or how their behaviors may be, dependent on their attachment style and temperament. There is also a high degree of appreciation for what a child is capable of and why it is so important to re direct children who are in risky or volatile situations, which helps ensure their healthy development. Courses such as neuropsychology, provide information as to why people may act the way they do, based on the synchrony between their environment, past experiences and genetic composition. With this empirical evidence, there is less judgment placed upon the perpetrator and there is a strong belief that the family circumstances and relationships may be able to change with the proper environment and support. This program has connected what is learned in textbooks into real life scenarios that are relatable and witnessed in daily interactions. Salary potential The average salary of a child welfare case worker is $44,000. However depending on the amount of time spent with the agency, it can increase to $70,000. These salaries fluctuate depending on how long you have been in the field. It also is dependent on where you are working, whether it be within the education system, government agencies, or non-profit organizations. Government agencies tend to have a higher paying salary. Moreover, having a Master’s Degree as opposed to a Bachelor’s degree can increase salary by up to $20,000. (http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/qc/job_futures/statistics/4152.shtml) (http://work.chron.com/much-money-welfare-case-worker-make-per-year-15955.html) Job outlook This job is high in demand. In 2013, 50% of the cases reported to the Children’s Aid Society were related to child abuse. In 2012, it was estimated that 30% of children are in or have been in a situation of maltreatment. Because of these numbers, the Children’s Aid Society has been looking for team of reliable and caring individuals who can help end the violence. Therefore, there is an increase in job opportunities within government agencies and professionals who wish to work within the educational system. More schools are offering Master’s and Doctorate degrees as post –education so the professionals working with children can be better equipped to handle the difficult situations. Because the salary is not too high, many people may overlook the potential of intrinsic motivation one may be able to attain from this job. The work is highly stressful and judgment calls must be made to protect a child. This is not an easy job, but rather a job that is necessary to protect the vulnerable population. In this area, a worker can help save a life of a child and help them become an active member of society. The reward may not be in the money, but rather in the change that can be made with the world and to a child’s life. http://careersinpsychology.org/become-a-child-welfare-social-worker/ To know more (http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/04/22/one-third-of-canadians-have-suffered-child-abuse-highest-rates-in-the-western-provinces-study-says/) (http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/child-abuse-affects-1-in-3-canadian-adults-mental-health-study-indicates-1.2617768) (www.savethechildren.com) (http://www.casw-acts.ca/en/social-work-practice-child-welfare)

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