A Bachelor's in Social Work offers a broad foundation to prepare students for a career as a generalist in this field, but it is possible to specialize the social work degree to a child welfare focus. The undergraduate program is a four-year course designed to provide knowledge and exposure to services for communities, family units, groups and individuals with special emphasis on under-served and marginalized demographics. The services involved may include mental and emotional support, health research and services, community health solutions and other basic social services, including job placement.
The coursework for a social work degree covers social policies, behavioral sciences, legal aspects and human rights issues. Courses in social policy provide an overview of the impact of education, healthcare services, foster care and prison services on the lives of affected populations. Course work in behavioral sciences include developmental psychology, human rights policy and socioeconomic issues with specific focus on problems and strategies addressing the needs of children, adults, the elderly and other special populations.
Specializing in Child Welfare Services
Some schools may offer a social work curriculum that provides an opportunity to specialize in child welfare issues. Electives may focus solely on child care and child development subjects to provide an in-depth understanding of mental, emotional and physical health issues faced by children.
In colleges without this program, those who intend to work with children will be required to complete the core curriculum as prescribed. Specializing a social work degree to a child welfare-focused background may be accomplished through mindful selection of special projects and assignments for all the required courses. Research topics could focus on child-development issues, and biostatistics surveys could center on elementary school populations. Capstone projects and internships should be used as opportunities to work with the youngest demographic samples, providing hands-on experience of interacting with children.
As a discipline, social work may be viewed in terms of two streams. The first stream is service-related work with direct access to clients or patients. The social worker acts as a liaison between clients and government agencies and private organizations that may be tapped for access to social welfare services needed by at-risk clients especially those who may be in vulnerable situations. The second stream includes counseling work to address the psychosocial needs of clients. Social workers provide therapy in an individual setting or a facilitated-group setting. Advance course work, graduate and postgraduate credentials along with licensing requirements may be needed to work as a social worker/counselor for children.
In both streams, specializing a social work degree to one with a child welfare focus means that you will have to ask course advisers to approve using young children as your sample group. The degree you end up completing may not indicate this specialization, but you can demonstrate expertise by maintaining a portfolio of projects and research work completed.
Related Resource: Top 25 MSW Online Programs 2018
Social work is a challenging yet rewarding field especially considering that the focus is on improving the quality of life of individuals, families and communities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that jobs in this field will grow by 16 percent over the 10-year period between 2016 and 2026. It is difficult to say how much of this growth will be attributed to child care-focused social workers, but specializing a social work degree in child welfare will be gratifying for those with a passion for advocating for young kids.