Divorced parents. Grandparents raising grandchildren. Two-income families and same-sex couples. These are just a few scenarios that define today’s changing domestic landscape. According to the article “Family Diversity is the New Normal for America’s Children,” the number of children living in “traditional” households has decreased dramatically since the 1960s. As familial structures become increasingly diverse, family social workers must adapt to meet their needs. Here are some considerations for those who choose to enter this rewarding field.
What Is Family Social Work?
The purpose of family social work is to support dysfunctional families on their road to improvement. Family social workers seek to help children and families find stability, safety and well-being.
Dysfunctional families may have a wide range of issues that prevent their members from living cohesively and in safety. These families may struggle with mental or physical illnesses, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, disabilities or a host of other challenges. Any of these issues can exist in both traditional and nontraditional family units. Today’s family social workers must be particularly sensitive to changing family trends so as to help their clients more effectively. According to Advances in Social Work, these trends might include:
- Severely limited opportunities for economic growth
- The presence of semi-extended family
- Increased numbers of divorced, single-parent and blended family units
- Increased levels of poverty
- Cross-generational family units
- Adoptive and foster family situations
- Grandparents serving as parents, or living in the home
To fulfill their goals of keeping families together and increasing their functionality, family social workers must make certain adaptations in their practice to meet this need. They might consider:
- Placing an increasing emphasis in their practice on family. This could look like ensuring the safety of all family members (not just children) and maximizing the autonomy families have on choosing outcomes for themselves and their members.
- Emphasizing a practice model based on individual and family strengths vs. a pathology model.
- Ensuring their own understanding of cultural sensitivities, and providing diversity-sensitive interactions and services.
In understanding these realities, family social workers are better able to provide the services required of their field.
Responsibilities and Work Settings
Family social work is a challenging but worthwhile career. The responsibilities of family social workers usually revolve around ensuring the protection and solidity of those they serve. These professionals might be required to:
- Identify children and clients in need of services
- Assess problems, risks and strengths within home environments
- Refer clients to needed services and programs
- Counsel individuals and families with various backgrounds and challenges
- Maintain case histories
- Help families set goals for behavioral improvement
- Evaluate and place children within foster care programs
- Facilitate adoptions
Family social workers may also work in a variety of settings, such as:
- State or local government
- Individual and family services
- Elementary and secondary schools
- Child care services
- Community and vocational rehabilitation services
Both because of their wide range of employers and an increased need for their services, family social workers have an array of choices when it comes to shaping their careers.
Licensure and Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, child and family social worker jobs are expected to increase 12 percent by 2024, a faster-than-average rate. Their median annual pay is $43,250. While those who enter family social work require a Bachelor of Social Work degree at minimum to practice, a Master of Social Work is often necessary. To help improve their impact when working with diverse individuals and families, additional training may be recommended.
Your Future as a Family Social Worker
Family social work is a rapidly growing field best designed for caring individuals who are sensitive and passionate about making a difference. For those interested in this crucial career field, Brescia University provides the tools they need to succeed. At Brescia, the online BSW and online MSW programs are rigorous, affordable and designed for students at multiple stages in their careers. Plus, the convenient format allows students to attend classes on a schedule that’s right for them. Brescia University was named one of the best online colleges in 2017.