Sometimes the ones who end up needing the biggest champion are the ones with the smallest voices. According to the National Association of Social Workers, in 2013, there were approximately 679,000 cases of child maltreatment. The type of child maltreatment ranged from physical and sexual abuse to neglect. What’s more, of this number, children younger than one were the most likely to be maltreated.1
These child abuse statistics tell a sad story, but the more social workers the child welfare system has on its side, the more happy endings will begin to emerge. That’s why the demand for social workers is at an all-time high within the child advocacy realm. Children and youth are some of the most vulnerable members of society, and those who experience traumatic childhoods have a historically higher chance of facing difficult futures, whether it’s due to health and mental issues or economic challenges. A social worker is often the only voice these children have.
For professionals with a Master in Social Work who want to make a true impact on the lives of abused and neglected children, a career in child advocacy offers a wide range of rewarding opportunities. Child advocacy organizations, hospitals, adoption agencies, and youth centers all rely on the expertise of trained social work professionals. Social workers can choose to help children and their families directly or opt to work in a macro capacity to impact future child welfare policy. Social workers may take on the role of child advocate, mental health counselor, family therapist, case manager, life skills counselor, director of operations and social services, and more. Child advocacy in a hospital setting might mean working closely with medical personnel to identify any signs of abuse and/or neglect. Youth centers offer social workers the opportunity to mentor kids closely while ensuring their basic needs are met. A social worker with the right training and experience can also work for child welfare agencies and non-profit organizations.
With more than 402,000 children and youth in foster care, the demand for social workers who specialize in adoption and foster care can’t be overstated.2 Social workers in these environments form close bonds with children, and often their families. The responsibilities of social workers who find themselves in child advocate jobs may include conducting in-home assessments of a child and his or her family, communicating medical history, and ensuring any medical and basic needs are met. Social workers may facilitate family visits, track a child’s case as it goes through the system, and work alongside attorneys to make recommendations to a judge. From the moment a child enters the system until the moment their case is closed and beyond, the social worker plays a pivotal role.
By helping at-risk children to find hopeful futures, social workers can help decrease drop-out rates, create better school environments, decrease juvenile crime rates and more. This proves that a career in child advocacy doesn’t just impact individual futures — it also shapes the future of our society.
1National Association of Social Workers, “Advocacy.” https://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/issues/child_welfare.asp
2National Association of Social Workers, “Advocacy.” https://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/issues/child_welfare.asp