A person studying social work may wonder what a child welfare caseworker is. The American child welfare system is complicated, and every state has its own rules and regulations around it. The caseworkers handle claims, investigations and other aspects of a child welfare case that has been brought to the attention of law enforcement and the justice system.
Specialized Type of Social Worker
A child welfare caseworker is a specialized type of social worker. Because they do not provide therapy, not all states require them to maintain a social work license. These caseworkers may work for a non-profit agency, department of child and family services or other local or state government agency or as a part of a law enforcement team. Child advocacy centers and facilities that set up foster care and adoptions for children may also employ child welfare caseworkers to protect the health and well-being of all children.
Work on Legal Cases That Affect Children
When a child is affected by a legal case, a child welfare caseworker may be included on the legal team for the child. For example, if the custody of a child is in question, the caseworker may interview the involved parties petitioning for custody or attempting to relinquish custody. They may also interview the child to get their perspective about the situation. These caseworkers may also advocate for children applying for asylum in the United States.
Investigator of Reported Abuse or Neglect
A child welfare caseworker’s responsibilities include investigating reports of abuse or neglect, explains Chron. When an anonymous report comes into Child Protective Services or the Department of Child and Family Services in a city or area, a caseworker may be sent to investigate. The caseworker might be accompanied by a police officer if there is a risk of injury or threat of safety to the caseworker or child. They may also investigate cases of suspected abuse or neglect reported to the child protective services or department of child and family services from a mandated reporter. The caseworker may take those reports and initiate the investigative process. They may contact the mandated reporter with follow-up questions and set up appointments for medical and mental health exams for the affected child.
Advocate for Children in Court and Government Settings
A child welfare caseworker is an advocate for children in many settings, including in the court system. They may speak on behalf of the child, especially if the child is unable to speak for themselves. They may advocate for policy changes in communities and at meetings of the state legislature. Some of them may function as lobbyists for nonprofit organizations. In that capacity, they may discuss children’s issues with government officials.
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A child welfare caseworker must be committed to serving the best interests of a child while also working within the confines of the law. These caseworkers should also be comfortable communicating with law enforcement, lawyers, judges, social workers, psychologists and healthcare professionals who may also be involved in a child welfare case. Understanding the role of a child welfare caseworker allows a person to determine if their characteristics and skills would be well-suited to this often stressful yet potentially highly rewarding career.