Kansas Workforce Initiative
A Realistic Job Preview of Kansas Child Welfare
Making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and families is what
inspires many social workers to enter the field of child welfare. Creating
positive change with children and families can be challenging. Not all social
workers are suited for this demanding field. If you are considering the field of
child welfare, it is important to have a realistic understanding of the work.
Child Welfare in Kansas - Where You Can Make a Difference features child
welfare professionals talking openly about what they do each day. Their stories will help you
understand both the challenges and the rewards of working in this field.
Child Welfare in Kansas - Where You Can Make a Difference
After you watch this video, you may want to know more about what child welfare professionals do each day. Click a type of child welfare work to see a typical weekly calendar and watch a video blog to learn more about each of these different roles in child welfare. Click here first for one simple step to improve the quality of viewing.
These calendars are based on actual weekly calendars of workers from agencies across Kansas. As you explore the calendars, keep in mind that each agency in Kansas does things a bit differently. For example, some agencies have slightly different titles for similar jobs. In foster care, workers who support families whose children are in out of home placement may be called “case managers” in one agency, “social workers” in a different agency and “permanency specialists” in yet another agency. In some agencies, workers may function in teams or specialize in a particular area such as working with the court. Despite these slight variations, the calendars should provide you with a general sense of what the work entails in each of these areas of child welfare where YOU can make a difference.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
After watching the video and exploring the weekly calendars, you may still have questions about child welfare. Those may be answered in the following list of questions asked by previous viewers.
Q. I’ve heard the child welfare system in Kansas is privatized. What does that mean?
The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF, formerly SRS - Social and Rehabilitation Services) conducts child abuse and neglect investigations, manages in-home services and provides system oversight and monitoring. Family preservation, foster care and adoption services are provided by private agencies through Child Welfare Community Based Services (CWCBS) contracts. To view a map of contractors through June 2013 and links to their current vacancies, click here. See Kansas Child Welfare Jobs July 2013 for new regions and contractors starting July 1, 2013.
It is important to have regular contact with the families with whom you work, so you will make home visits often. Many agencies provide vehicles as well as cell phones or laptops to assist worker making home visits.
Q. How many families will I work with at a time?
Your caseload will vary depending upon your position. For instance, family preservation caseloads are typically lower than foster care so that you have the time to work more intensively with families. Agencies regularly review caseloads and strive to keep workloads manageable.
Q. How much time will I spend on paperwork?
The complexity of families’ problems and intricate interactions between the child welfare, legal and judicial, mental health and other partners requires clear and concisely written plans and reports to ensure continuity and quality of care. Although many social workers find that they spend more time on paperwork than they’d like, documentation is a critical part of working effectively with children and families.
Q. How often will I have to respond to crisis situations?
Crisis situations are a regular part of working with children and families. How often you must deal with crises will vary depending upon your role as well as your agency’s practices. Agencies provide crisis training and have policies and procedures that address crisis incidents.
Q. Will I have to deal with angry people very often?
Family members in crisis situations respond in a number of different ways including anger, confusion or fear. You will receive support, training and regular supervision to address challenging situations.
Q. Is safety an issue?
Agencies have training as well as policies and procedures to provide for worker safety. Skills include defusing anger, managing crisis, and refocusing or postponing difficult discussions when necessary. Safety procedures including informing others of your whereabouts or requesting to have a colleague or even law enforcement accompany you on a visit.
Q. How will I know whether kids are safe or not?
If you choose to work in investigation, you will receive specialized training on how to assess whether children are at risk of abuse or neglect. As mentioned in the video, you will work with your supervisor and others to make a decision about the best plan for the children. If you work in family preservation or foster care, you will learn how to consider safety and risk as you create case plans with a family and assess progress toward case goals. In most agencies, teams meet regularly to discuss each case so that you have the support of your colleagues.
Q. Why is there so much pressure to reunify families in such a short time?
Acknowledging that a year is a long time to a child, we work as intensively as possible with family members to assess and support their capacity for change and for building strengths to be able to care for the safety and well-being of their child. Having a stable childhood with as few disruptions as possible supports well-being and positive development so finding a permanent placement with relatives, kin or an adoptive family is important.
Q. How will I know when I’ve made a good decision about a child or family?
Child welfare is not only family-centered, but it is also team oriented. You will work closely with each family to create a plan and engage with them in achieving progress. Cases are regularly staffed with colleagues and supervisors.
Q. How closely do social workers work with the courts and legal professionals?
While the roles of social workers, attorneys and judges are very different, there is a significant amount of communication across disciplines both inside and outside the courtroom. Since parents have a constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit unless the children are not safe or their well-being is endangered, courts make decisions about whether a child is a child in need of care or whether reasonable efforts have been made to reintegrate or move a child toward permanency. Social workers’ recommendations, documentation and testimony are critical to both legal and judicial partners in the process.
Q. How often will I have to go to court?
For many of the positions in child welfare, going to court is a regular part of the job. Only the courts can officially place a child in the custody of the state and make permanency decisions so child protection, foster care and adoption social workers have important roles in court proceedings.
Q. How often will I have to work late?
There will be times when you will need to work late. You may need to see families during their off-work hours, catch up on paperwork, or deal with a crisis during the evening or on the weekend. Most agencies make arrangements to limit or share after hours on-call responsibilities.
Q. How do workers handle the stress of the work?
Each professional has his or her own strategy for managing stress and balancing work and family life. A recent study of social workers in child welfare indicated that exercise is a leading method for alleviating stress followed by meditation and therapy. Other coping strategies listed were gardening, listening to music, watching television, massage, camping, fishing, painting, yoga, reading, spiritual development, and martial arts. Supervisors and professional development teams pay close attention to stress levels and provide opportunities for addressing it through regular meetings and trainings.
Q. How do child welfare professionals maintain balance between work and personal lives?
Support systems, both professional and personal, that offer assistance and a sense of confidence help a lot, particularly in the first year. Your supervisor will play an important role in keeping you motivated and successful. Co-workers who understand the complexity of the work can provide support and understanding. Your family may provide important support as well.
Q. I'm not quite sure about some of the terms or acronyms that I saw on the calendars or heard in the video. How do I find out more?
We've attached a Glossary of Commonly Used Terms which includes a detailed
section of acronyms with definitions. This resource will help clarify language
in the video and on the calendars and it may help you to understand more about
child welfare, the court system and related community partners.