How Social Workers Help Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect
Safeguarding children’s welfare is a traditional role for U.S. social workers. In fact, one in five of the nation’s more than 700,000 social workers works with children and families to help prevent abuse and neglect.1
Their work is critical. These statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the 2021 fiscal year show the serious danger children face:2
- Approximately 1,820 children died as a result of abuse and neglect.
- An estimated 600,000 children were subject to maltreatment.
- Reports show that 76% of children were neglected, 16% were physically abused, 10% were sexually abused, and 0.2% were the victims of sex trafficking.
- There were investigations into incidents involving more than 3 million children.
“The child maltreatment report tells us that child protection agencies across the country determined that fewer children were victims of abuse and neglect last year. This is the right direction, but there is still much work to be done,” a spokeswoman for the HHS Administration for Children and Families said.3
An Emphasis on Prevention
Everyone agrees that one case of child abuse and neglect is one too many. That’s why all types of social workers and other child welfare practitioners work across many fronts to safeguard children. Here are some of the ways social workers help prevent child abuse and neglect: 2
- Education: Clinical social workers, school social workers, and other professionals help soon-to-be parents, parents, caregivers, and others learn parenting and coping skills. They work with children and the community at large to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect.
- Support: Social workers can help identify family stressors and find support to address them. This might include connecting parents with childcare, financial resources like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), mental health services, and more.
- Social change: Social workers advocate for family-friendly policies in government and business. Limiting the use of corporal punishment is one recommended legislative approach. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says doing so “can help establish norms around safe, more effective discipline strategies to reduce the harms of harsh physical punishment.”4
When Intervention Becomes Necessary
Social workers and other professionals will try to keep children with their families if they can safely do so.5 But there are times when children must be removed from a potentially dangerous setting for their own safety. These are some of the steps child welfare workers take to help prevent child abuse and neglect:6
- Investigate: When maltreatment is suspected, social workers and other members of a Child Protective Services team investigate thoroughly.
- Offer support: Social workers and others help parents or caregivers find support and services that may enable them to continue to care for their children. Children receive the supportive care they need.
- Find shelter: At-risk children may be removed from their homes and placed with foster families or with relatives for safety.
- Reunify families: Reunification is an option when a child’s safety is ensured. Social workers and others will work with parents or caregivers to mitigate risk factors. When reunification isn’t possible, a relative may gain custody, or adoption may be an option if the court terminates parental rights.
If you suspect someone is experiencing child abuse or neglect, you can call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453).
Become an Advocate in a Social Work Career
If you want to focus your social work practice on child welfare, earning a social work degree is an appropriate choice. Studies show that it’s the academic credential “directly linked to better outcomes for children and families,” according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).7
You can earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) online from Walden University, one of the top three granters of MSW degrees in the U.S. Walden’s online MSW degree program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
In this social work master’s program, you can align your studies with today’s in-demand social work jobs by choosing choose one of these five relevant focus areas: Addictions, Child and Family, Healthcare, Military, and Trauma.
Walden’s Barbara Solomon School of Social Work and Human Services offers other online social work degree programs, too. If you’d like to prepare to become a social worker, you can earn a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. The accredited university also lets you take your social work practice to the highest level by offering a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree and a PhD in Social Work.
All of Walden’s online social work programs give you the flexibility to earn a degree while balancing your professional and personal activities. You can log in and work on your studies when most it’s convenient for you.
A master’s in social work can help prepare you to make a difference. Become a social change agent and help better the lives of the children and adults in your community.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
Walden University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Commission on Accreditation. Accreditation of a baccalaureate or master’s social work program by the Council on Social Work Education’s Commission on Accreditation indicates that it meets or exceeds criteria for the assessment of program quality evaluated through a peer review process. An accredited program has sufficient resources to meet its mission and goals and the Commission on Accreditation has verified that it demonstrates compliance with all sections of the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards.
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