Few experiences are more potentially traumatic in a child’s life than being placed in foster care. Foster care social workers are licensed professionals who serve as advocates for these children by making sure they’re safe and stable in their new homes while working to reunite them with their original families, if possible, or find them permanent placement somewhere else.
One of the most important things a foster care social worker must do is build trusting relationships with the children in their care, many of whom have been victims of abuse. Foster care social workers maintain daily contact and facilitate therapy, counseling, and medical care as part of making sure that all the children’s needs are met.
The role of a foster care social worker differs from many other forms of social work in that foster care social workers focus exclusively on every aspect of the child’s welfare, even if that means recommending the child no longer live with their biological family.
Essential Duties of a Foster Care Social Worker
One of the essential duties of a foster care social worker is to train foster parents and help them acquire the required certifications. Others include:
- Run background checks
- Work with other people and groups charged with a child’s care
- Monitor the child’s academic performance
- Outline the child’s foster care goals
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the child’s foster home and prepare progress reports
- Serve as a liaison between the child, their family, and their foster families
- Conduct home visits as part of helping the child’s birth parents achieve the requirements for reunification
Goals of Foster Care Social Work
The ultimate goal of a foster care social worker is to make sure children in their care find a permanent, safe, and stable home environment, preferably with their original families. If that can’t be achieved, other goals are:
- Transfer custody of the child to a relative other than the prior family
- Find permanent placement with an adoptive family
- Place the child in permanent foster care
- Match the child with another permanent living arrangement
Requirements and Skills for a Foster Care Social Worker
Foster care social workers typically need a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field, and some states may require them to have an advanced degree, such as a Master of Social Work. Foster care social workers also need a license from the state in which they practice.
Being an effective foster care social worker requires a number of key skills, including:
Communication is critical for foster care social workers to be able to form relationships with the children in their care. They also must be able to effectively explain how foster care works to those new to the system and be able to write reports.
Empathy and Patience
Understanding others’ feelings is vital to forming relationships with foster children, most of whom have suffered trauma or experienced family violence, and helping them adjust to their new lives. Empathy and patience are also crucial to understanding their biological families and helping them meet their reunification requirements.
Foster care is filled with challenges for all parties involved, and solving problems that arise in unpredictable situations is necessary to ensure children in foster care have their needs met.
Foster care social workers often must manage multiple cases simultaneously. Organization makes it possible to ensure that each child’s unique situation receives the proper focus.
Foster Care Social Worker Salary and Job Outlook
Child, family, and school social workers earn a median annual salary of $49,150 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which expects the overall employment of social workers to grow a faster-than-average 12% between 2020 and 2030.
Develop the Skills for a Career in Social Work
Social work at its core is helping those who need it most. As a trained, professional social worker you have the opportunity to advocate for and directly assist some of the most at-risk people in society. With social issues such as poverty, homelessness, and the opioid crisis impacting individuals across demographic groups, aspiring foster care social workers have a rare opportunity to enter the social work landscape during a time of critical necessity and transformation.
Ohio University’s online Master of Social Work program can help you gain advanced knowledge and develop the specialized skills needed to focus on concrete problems such as lack of health care access. Our program prepares you to make a substantial impact in foster care social work.
Learn more about how Ohio University’s online Master of Social Work program can help prepare you to serve children and families and implement meaningful solutions to a variety of social problems.
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California Department of Social Services, Foster Care
Considering Adoption, “3 Questions You Have About Foster Care Adoption Social Workers”
Forbes, “What Are the Different Types of Social Workers?”
National Association of Social Workers, Foster Care Media Toolkit
The Nest, “Foster Care Social Worker Job Description”
Payscale, Average Foster Care Social Worker Salary
Virginia Law, Foster Care Goals
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Child, Family, and School Social Workers