CAREER DEVELOPMENT / NOV. 19, 2014
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How to Become a Family Support Worker in the US

If you have a strong heart and the will to help people facing various challenges, perhaps becoming a family support worker would suit you.

Family support workers focus on helping troubled families overcome their challenges. They not only help them to create a functional home environment, but also gain access to government assistance programs such as Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance. Keep reading to find out how you can get to this job.

What Do Family Support Workers Do?

The specific duties of family support workers vary from job to job. The following list highlights some of the general duties you can expect to perform:

  • Interview family members to determine the family’s real issues
  • Help families solve marital or financial difficulties
  • Help parents to develop stronger relationships with their children
  • Teach parents how to handle behavioral changes in children
  • Help children who return home from care centers adjust accordingly
  • Obtain application forms for assistance programs on behalf of the families you are supporting
  • Check the progress of previously supported families
  • Maintain contact with social workers and other human services professionals

Work Environment

Although family support workers have irregular schedules that include early mornings, evening and weekends, they usually work a total of 40 hours a week.

These support workers spend most of their time on the road visiting clients’ residences, but later retreat to their offices to craft work-related reports.

They also may be required to attend court sessions, especially in divorce cases.

Salary

How much can you make annually as a family support worker? Find out below:

Level of Seniority

Annual Salary

Beginning family support workers

$25,000 - $30,644

Experienced family support workers

$30,644- $35,000

Family support managers

$35,000 - $45,000

Source: Payscale

Qualifications Required

What qualifications do you need to catch the eye of potential employers? In most cases, you just need to be a high school graduate with some experience working with at-risk families and children.

To gain this experience, you can volunteer in nursing homes, youth centers and senior living centers.

You can also enhance your chances of getting employed by earning an associate degree in any of the following fields:

  • Social work
  • Human services
  • Child and family studies

Because the job calls for regular traveling, it is beneficial to have a driving license.

Important Qualities

To be an effective family support worker you need:

  • Excellent active listening, speaking and writing skills
  • The ability to create and maintain respect and trust with families
  • A non-judgmental attitude
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • The ability to respect other people’s needs and choices
  • The ability to maintain calmness even when emotions are running high
  • Patience, compassion, empathy and understanding

Career Development

After securing a job, your employer will give you additional training in areas such as:

  • Child protection
  • Identification of alcohol and drug abuse or domestic violence victims
  • Problem assessment methods
  • Health, safety and first aid procedures
  • Legal issues in family support work

You can then work toward advancing your career by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in family and human services or a closely-related field.

The National Council on Family Relations offers the Certified Family Life Educator credential, which you can obtain to heighten your career progression chances. NCFR also provides membership opportunities.

Job Opportunities

The potential employers of qualified family support workers include:

  • Family and children refuge centers
  • Probation centers
  • Youth centers
  • Social services agencies
  • Commercial providers of home-based services

With vast experience and more qualifications, you could become a family support manager or start your own family counseling business.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of community service specialists, including family support workers, will grow by 19 percent through 2022. Since the average growth rate for all jobs in the US is 11 percent, there will be enough employment opportunities for you to help families grow stronger.

So if you have the drive and necessary skills then this might just be the right career for you.

 

Image: iStock

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