Careers Working with Children in Human Services
Human Services agencies will often have a focus on working with children either as part of families or as the focused population to work on. This can take a variety of forms such as Child Welfare, Child Advocates, Adoption and Permanency work, School Social Work, Child Life Specialists and a wide variety of other careers and agencies that work specifically with children. It is an unfortunate fact that a large minority of the recipients of various government assistance programs are children or families with children. This gives rise to the need for agencies that are targeted towards helping children who are vulnerable ensure that they have safety and other needs met. As children are psychologically very different from adults, the ways in which a Human Services worker would interact, communicate and help a child would be radically different from the expectations one might have of adult behavior. This includes adolescents who while beginning to have the physical bodies of adults, still retain much of the developmental psychology of children. Working with children takes a tremendous amount of patience, empathy, care, ability to establish rapport and also the ability to make others feel safe which for many children, especially those involved with Human Services agencies, is an incredibly important skill. There are so many ways that one can help children but the three primary ways to help children within Human Services although there can be overlap, generally involve one or more of the following: helping children with mental/emotional problems, helping children have safety within their home environment or helping children meet their basic needs.
In the realm of helping children with their mental and emotional problems there are many different Human Services jobs. The School Social Worker helps children to work through problems that are keeping them from being able to complete their education and/or are impacting the rest of their classroom and preventing others from learning. Child Psychologists are specially trained Psychologists who work with children one on one or in groups with a uniquely powerful understanding of child developmental psychology, they are able to help children at a level the child can understand to heal emotional wounds and problems. The Child Life Specialist helps children who are undergoing medical procedures for chronic or acute conditions, often the medical procedures are frightening and emotionally difficult for children and their families and the job of the Child Life Specialist is to assist both the child and their family in coping with this fact. There are many other jobs in which the mental health of children is the focus of a Human Services occupation.
Some jobs within Human Services are focused on helping to ensure that children have safe home environments so that they can flourish and have the same opportunities as other children. One type of Human Services professional who works with children in this way is known as the Child Welfare Case manager. The Child Welfare Case Manager investigates allegations of child abuse or neglect. Where appropriate the Child Welfare Case Manager will help parents who are having difficulties properly caring for their children to get help, counseling and parenting classes. In cases of severe abuse and neglect the Child Welfare Case Manager will opt for removal of the child from the home as an option of last resort, but always with the child’s safety as the paramount factor in making any decision. Some children have entered state care either due to being removed from abusive and neglectful homes or due to the deaths of parents with no know relative. These children are very vulnerable and are in need of homes and families to live in. The Social Services Permanency Worker is an occupation within Child Welfare that works to evaluate potential Foster and Adoptive homes to ensure that they are prepared to take on the responsibilities of carefully raising a child who has been through trauma. This is a delicate task that requires close attention to detail, strong organizational skills, a thorough mind and the ability to really understand the needs of individual children in state care.
The third way in which Human Services workers will work with children is in the realm of securing their basic needs usually as part of a family. For example a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Eligibility Case Manager will work with families to apply for and evaluate their potential eligibility for government assistance such as TANF. The TANF program requires that there be dependent children in the home of the recipients and as such is a Human Services job that is built around providing services to children. Another example of this sector of work is the Teen Parent Case Manager. This type of worker not only establishes eligibility for programs like TANF and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP formerly food stamps), but also will help the teen parent to attend parenting classes and work to complete their education and/or find job training to help them compensate for the new responsibilities and costs of being a teen parent.
There are a wide variety of capacities in which a Human Services worker might help children or adolescents. In all cases the common thread is to ensure that youth are provided with basic needs and also that their safety is ensured. There is also usually a focus on completing education such as is seen in the School Social Worker and the Teen Parent Case Manager. One of the most important things for children after their basic needs and safety concerns are met is to ensure they have the chance to succeed as an adult and that means completing their education. If you like helping people and especially children you will find that there are a great deal of careers working with children in Human Services.