Men and women trained in the field of social sciences, usually social work specifically, although college graduates in sociology, psychology and other fields may be employed as social workers. (Some social work graduates take umbrage when a person without a social work degree is referred to as a "social worker"; this definition is given in its broadly understood sense.)
Adoption social workers may counsel birthparents, prospective adoptive parents, older children who will be adopted, birthgrandparents and other individuals involved and actively interested in adoption.
Social workers perform HOME STUDIES of individuals who have applied to adopt a child or children. A home study may include group classes, depending on the agency and the situation. The social worker will also visit the home of the prospective parents to interview the adopting parents and verify they would make suitable parents for the child and to ensure the home is safe and relatively clean.
After the child is in the family, follow-up visits to the home are made.
The primary goal of the social worker involved in adoption is to find good families for children and to protect the rights of the children. If a SPECIAL NEEDS adoption is planned, the social worker wants to fully educate the adopting parents so they will understand the needs and problems of the child. The social worker will also often arrange for the adoptive parents to meet the child and will prepare the child prior to the meeting.
Social workers work for both public and private agencies, as well as for lawyers and others doing independent adoptions. Some social workers are self-employed individuals who perform home studies on demand in states that allow it. (Many states require adoption agencies to administer home studies.)
Social workers are also involved in other aspects of child welfare. Protective services social workers remove children from families that are abusive or neglectful; foster care social workers oversee children in foster care; other social workers oversee the cases of individuals receiving Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid. And there are other types of social workers.
Pay in the professional field of social work is generally modest, and most people who remain in this field are self-motivated and dedicated people who want to make a positive difference in society and people's lives by their help. (See also NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS, INC.)
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©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.