Start a Family Social Work Career

What Is Family Social Work?Social Worker Visiting Family With Young Baby

The family unit is often one of the most influential and important aspects in a person’s life. Families typically help lay a big part of the foundations of people’s lives. They are usually the source of a person’s morals, values, and interpersonal skills. Family structures also provide emotional and financial support, along with security, for most individuals.

Since children learn a number of their habits and behaviors from their parents and other family members, it is imperative for them to grow up in strong and healthy families. Family dynamics don’t only affect just the children in a family, however. They often affect every single member of a family.

Individuals who grow up in a dysfunctional family will often have family problems themselves as adults. They may repeat their family members negative behaviors, for instance, and possibly have problems forming healthy relationships with those around them. Family problems can also put an excessive amount of stress on adult members of a family.

Although every family experiences problems at one point or another, some problems are worse than others. Oftentimes, families experiencing crises will need help picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives.

Family social workers provide services to families in crisis that need help fixing problems that interfere with family harmony. Typically, families that need the services of family social workers have severe problems that they can’t sort out on their own. These problems often hinder the normal functioning of a healthy family and may include such things as:

  • Addictions
  • Mental Illnesses
  • Financial Problems
  • Unhealthy Relationships
  • Medical Problems
  • Stress
By making plans and helping families utilize services available to them, family social workers will often have the satisfaction of witnessing these families get back on the right track.

Why Do We Need Family Social Workers?

Healthy and functional families are the cornerstones of our societies. Broken and dysfunctional families often leave negative shrouds around people that follow them for the rest of their lives. Living with such things as mental illness, extreme poverty, addiction, and abuse typically make it hard for people to carry on with normal lives.

Family social workers, however, assist families in crisis. They help them find assistance and services that they can use to overcome obstacles and repair their lives.

What Does a Family Social Worker Do?

The first step that a family social worker must take when working with a new family is to assess that family. This is usually done by observing and interviewing the family members, both separately and as a whole. By doing this, a family social worker will typically be able to get a good idea of the family dynamics, and identify the family’s strengths, weaknesses, and problems.

Once a family’s problems have been identified, a family social worker will then typically help the family set goals and make a plan to overcome these problems. This often involves the participation of the family as a whole, regardless of whether or not the family’s problems stem from just one member or the whole family. The family social worker can then help connect the family to organizations and agencies that can help them with their specific needs.

The goals and plans that a family social worker might help families develop will be influenced by the types of problems the families are trying to work past. Here are a few examples:

  • A family is having severe financial problems due to a recent job loss. Not only do they find it difficult to pay for daily necessities, like food, they are also at risk of losing their home. A family social worker can assist them by helping the family make a plan to beat poverty, which may involve sticking to a household budget and applying for public assistance benefits. The social worker will also refer adult family members to local employment service offices and help them find suitable childcare.
  • Since his aging mother-in-law moved in with them, a husband is finding it harder and harder to spend time with his wife, leaving him feel resentful and angry. This new arrangement has also put a financial strain on the family. Lately, he often picks fights with his wife and is also often short with his children, which is very out of character for him. A family social worker can help this family find affordable medical care and home health care aides for the mother-in-law, and possibly refer the family to a marriage and family counselor.
  • Although she was once a happy straight A student, a father has begun to notice a decline in his daughter’s mood and grades. Lately, she has been sulky and disrespectful, and she frequently stays away from home for several days at a time. Her last report card showed that she is already failing two classes in school and at risk of failing several others. In addition, her mother has also found what she believes to be drug paraphernalia in her daughter’s room while putting laundry away. A family social worker can refer the family to a teen addiction counselor, and help them find family counseling services as well.Setting goals, making plans, and hoping families will follow through with them is typically not enough to spur the necessary change. In general, family social workers will also stay in communication with each family, to make sure they are taking the necessary steps toward positive change.

Where Do Family Social Workers Find Employment?

Many family social workers will often be able to find employment with government agencies, along with different types of health facilities. For instance, as a family social worker, you may be able to find employment in medical hospitals, mental health clinics, and community health clinics. Schools might also hire family social workers as well.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Family Social Worker?

Social Work Licenses
Education Requirements Education Length Available Programs
LBSW (License Bachelor's Social Work) Bachelor's  4 Years Online or Campus
LMSW (Licensed Master's Social Worker) Master's  6 Years Online or Campus
LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) Master's +3200 Clinical Hours 7-8 Years Online or Campus

If you’re hoping to pursue a family social work career, you should complete a bachelor’s degree program in social work. While completing this degree program, you should also concentrate on taking courses that concentrate on families and parenting.

Many states also require family social workers to licensed before they can legally practice. This typically involves completing a master’s degree program and completing roughly 3,000 hours of supervised fieldwork. These requirements may vary from state to state, however, so be sure to check with your state’s licensing agency for complete details.

What Is the Salary of Family Social Workers?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics splits social workers into four groups. One of those categories is child, family and school social workers, which are grouped together for salary. According to the BLS, as of May 2014, the average annual salary of a family social worker was $46,810 with the top 10 percent of child social workers earning roughly $72,500. The salary will depend on education and location. For example, New York pays its child social workers more than $55,000 in salary on average while states like Pennsylvania and Illinois pay far less.