The Career of a Family Support Worker
The primary role of a Family Support Worker is to determine eligibility of families for federal and state assistance programs. In addition, the Family Support Worker must have excellent written and verbal communication skills to explain case decisions based on complex rules and regulations.
The Family Support Worker is expected to maintain ongoing documentation for their case decisions for review at both the state and federal levels. Having excellent computer skills is critical as the Family Support Worker will be required to use state and federal databases to make eligibility decisions. Income is one of the primary areas in which a Family Support Worker makes eligibility decisions. Strong math skills are a must to make sure the correct amount of benefits are issued.
The duties of a Family Support Worker can include:
- Establishing rapport with clients
- Determining eligibility for federal programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- Detecting over/under payments in benefits issuances
- Maintaining a clear and concise narrative documentation of case actions
- Use of state and federal databases to determine eligibility around such factors as citizenship and income
- Explaining decisions to clients involving complex rules and regulations
- Connecting clients with community resources
The Family Support Worker meets with clients (individuals and families) and spends time gaining rapport with the client. Once that has been established, a Family Support Worker will begin determining eligibility by asking for client ID, proof of citizenship, proof of income, proof of housing, and utility expenses. The Family Support Worker then determines the programs for which a client is eligible.
For example, the Family Support Worker meets with a client who is a US Citizen with no children. The client is applying for all possible programs. The Family Support Worker establishes rapport, requests identification, and the client states no income, housing or utility costs. The Family Support Worker determines that the only eligibility is for SNAP, so an Electronics Benefits Transfer (EBT) card is issued. The client is connected with appropriate community resources such as the local homeless shelter, job training (if desired) and other resources as appropriate. Finally, benefits are issued to the EBT card so the client can go food shopping on the same day.
A Family Support Worker provides a critical service to both the community and the individual. From the client’s perspective, he/she is given access to federal programs which assists in making ends meet and putting food on the table. This has a profound impact has on families who are working through a difficult stretch. The satisfaction the Family Support Worker receives by helping families in need is beyond measure. For the community, the stability this helps provide families and individuals makes the following difference:
- Huge benefits to community health and related expenditures (example: reduced unpaid emergency room visits)
- Reduced crime rates as people are given access to food and medical care
- Better conditions in schools as children receive the food and medical care they need to flourish
- Vastly improved mental health for the community as people are helped through difficult times
So, how does one join the workforce as a Family Support Worker? Most states require either a Bachelor’s degree (with degrees in Behavioral Sciences being preferred) or multiple years of experience working in a field where eligibility is determined with a preference for work with non-profits or state agencies that work with at risk communities.
The best educational route to becoming a Family Support Worker is to get a Bachelor’s degree in a Behavioral Science field such as Social Work, Psychology or Sociology.
What are the rewards of being a Family Support Worker? In addition to the incredible satisfaction one derives from helping children and families, there are more tangible benefits such as:
- Solid pay scale, depending on the state, one can earn between $29,000 and $53,000 per year, according to BLS.gov.
- Excellent benefits: many states provide comprehensive health care plans
- Generous retirement packages: many states provide generous retirement plans