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Careers Working with Children and Families

Helping a struggling family to put food on the table. Providing a safe environment in which a child who was abandoned, abused or neglected can flourish. Assisting youngsters with emotional or physical needs to reach their full potential.

These are some of the missions of human services professionals who dedicate their lives and careers to working with children, youth and families. Many of the options for working with children and families fall under the umbrella of human services or psychology. But professionals can find diversity and specialization in the populations they serve and the services they provide.

School social workers, for example, help children address problems that prevent them from excelling in the classroom. Child life specialists offer services to children with chronic or acute medical problems, while also providing support to their families.

Child welfare case managers provide access to services ranging from interventions to assist struggling families to removing children from abusive or neglectful environments. Permanency workers, on the other hand, are tasked with evaluating potential adoptive and foster care homes as environments where children in state care can thrive.

Career Opportunities with State Agencies

Human services professionals often work for state agencies that provide assistance to clients across all age groups. While organizational flow varies by state, divisions within these agencies may include:

  • Child Protection – Safeguards children from neglect and abuse while striving to preserve the family unit, including assisting in providing services to address family and individual concerns.
  • Juvenile Justice – Provides supervision and rehabilitative programs to children and youth who have been charged with or convicted of crimes. Seeks to prevent a child’s return to the justice system.
  • Permanency – Strives to ensure children are placed in safe, stable environments when reunification with family members is not feasible.

What to Expect

Human services careers that focus on children and families can encompass a diversity of tasks depending on the specialty area. Although these careers can be stressful, they can also be fulfilling and offer flexibility and potential for advancement. Human services professionals employed as child, family and school social workers earned an average salary of $46,610 in 2015, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics national survey.

Breaking into the Field

Training requirements will vary based on the specialty. Caseworkers and mental health assistants may require a bachelor’s degree in human services or a related field to obtain an entry-level post. School social workers and others working in a more hands-on capacity, however, may find a master’s degree in human services, psychology or a related field is required. States may also have licensing requirements for some aspects of the field.

Resources to Learn More

Working with children and families offers the opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of others. Students interested in pursuing such careers can find resources to help them explore in greater depth. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services provides information about programs available across the country to help children, youth and families.

Educational requirements, salaries and job availability vary by employer and geographical region, among other factors.


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