Georgia Department of Human Services

 Overview: Social Services Child Welfare Positions

 

The goal of all Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) professionals is to strengthen families by assisting them in solving their problems as efficiently and effectively as possible. "Governor Nathan Deal has tasked our agency with the responsibility of ensuring that children get the best shot at life possible,” notes DFCS Director Bobby Cagle. This includes, first and foremost, that children who come to the attention of the agency are safe. Specifically, professionals who work in social services are responsible for ensuring that children who remain at home are protected and safe and children who are removed from their homes attain safety and permanence.

Is a career as a child welfare professional right for you? This information and self-assessment tool will help you decide. If, after your careful consideration, there seems to be a fit between your educational background, career goals, and professional interests and Georgia DFCS, we invite you to send us a résumé and cover letter. But first, read and consider the accompanying text. This document will provide you with:

  • An overview of DFCS child welfare services
  • A realistic picture of challenges and opportunities of working in child welfare
  • A description of children and families served by DFCS child welfare professional
 
Background Information

DFCS is a high performance organization interested in potential employees who have the right motivation and attitudes to add value to the organization.

 
DFCS and the Roles of Child Welfare Professionals

The Georgia DFCS receives and investigates reports of child abuse and neglect; provides services and support to families in need; locates relatives and foster families for abused and neglected children who cannot safely remain in their homes; helps low income, out-of-work parents obtain job skills and employment in order for them to get back on their feet; assists with childcare costs for low income parents who are working or in job training; and provides numerous support services and innovative programs to help and strengthen troubled families. In providing these services, DFCS child welfare professionals work cooperatively with other organizations, community services agencies, the schools, the courts, and other community groups to accomplish the goals of safety, permanency, and well being for children and families..

DFCS employs approximately 2500 social services staff located in offices in each of the 159 counties in 15 regions across the state. In 2014, an additional 500 social services positions were approved by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Many of the situations in which social service case managers are involved are perceived as intrusions into clients’ private lives, and are often highly emotionally charged. The children and families served by child welfare professionals in Georgia are among the most needy of our citizens and they often have multiple, complex problems that interfere with the quality of their lives and care for their children.  These clients receive legally required services and are often upset and angry with DFCS intervention in their lives. Child welfare professionals are employed by DFCS to assist these children and families as problems in living are identified, solutions are developed, and systematic plans are implemented to enhance their quality of life.  Often the problems in living faced by these children and their families are exacerbated by the effects of substance abuse, violence, crime, mental illness, inadequate parenting skills, family disruptions, poverty and many other factors as well.

 
Major Program Areas

New DFCS child welfare employees are typically assigned to specialize in one of the major program areas. Although in sparsely populated counties, a child welfare employee may carry cases in more than one program area, to include:

  • Intake
  • Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigations and Family Support Assessments
  • Family Preservation/Ongoing CPS Services
  • Foster Care/Placement (i.e., relative, foster, adoptive, and guardianship families)
  • Adoption

Intake:  Reports for suspected abuse are taken by case managers at the CPS Intake Call Center (CICC) and assessed for possible abuse or neglect. Cases with an allegation of maltreatment are forwarded on to the DFCS office in the county within hours of receipt for a response. Depending on the severity of the complaint, cases are assigned using a differential response approach. Cases assigned to an immediate or 24 hour response are coded as a Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation and are typically more serious in nature.   A five-day response time - assigned as a Family Support case- is appropriate for reports of maltreatment that do not include physical or sexual abuse and do not present an immediate safety concern.

Family Support Referrals:  With cases assigned as Family Support, the case manager is tasked with making contact with the family within five days of receipt of the report. Supports to families generally include providing early intervention and referrals to community services rather than initiating a CPS investigation. Community partners include family counseling, mental health, food banks, substance abuse programs, churches and other faith-based organizations, etc.

Child Protective Services/Investigations:  Cases assigned as an investigation require an immediate or 24 hour response by the case manager – depending on the severity of the allegation of abuse. A CPS referral is investigated by a case manager who assesses the safety of the child and functioning of the family. An investigation typically involves the case manager gathering information, making home visits, developing safety plans with the family, identifying relatives, and making collateral contacts. At times, the investigation may result in removing children in cases where they cannot safely remain in the home.  At other times, if the report is substantiated, and the child can remain safely in the home with services, an Ongoing CPS/Family Preservation case may be opened.

Family Preservation/Ongoing Services:  In situations in which a CPS report is substantiated, but the child’s safety is assured, the case manager provides services to help families learn healthier ways of parenting their child(ren). The case manager engages the family in addressing the issues that led to the maltreatment, and provides them with support and services to address these needs. Activities may include holding a family team meeting, working with relative resources, monitoring the case plan, making home visits, transporting clients to access services, etc., all with the goal of strengthening the family so that the needs of the child can be met.

Foster Care/Placement/Adoption (i.e., relative, foster, adoptive, and guardianship families):  Children removed from their home and in custody of the State are provided services by case managers to meet their physical, emotional, and developmental needs until they can be safely returned home, placed with a relative with custody, or legally adopted.  Services are provided to their parents to help them address the issues that led to the child’s removal so that reunification can occur. The case manager gathers information about relatives, holds family team meetings, makes home visits, develops case plans with the family, transports clients to receive needed services to strengthen families with services to meet the needs of their child(ren). The majority of children in foster care are reunified with their families. However, when necessary to achieve permanency, the child may be placed permanently with relatives or placed for adoption. 

 
The Challenges and Personal Rewards of Working in DFCS

Professional work in child welfare, though difficult at times, very stressful, and challenging, can be quite personally and professionally gratifying.  Those who value service to others are rewarded by the impact they have on strengthening families, and the positive changes they see in our most vulnerable children and families in need of attention, assistance, and personal and professional support.  For many troubled children and families, change is a rather slow process. Positive steps occur a little at a time.  Working with children and families with difficulties in their living situations to produce more positive, settled, and productive lives is a significant challenge in child welfare.  However, success in this human services professional context carries its own personal and professional rewards.

 
Community Partners

The most important aspect of the child welfare professional’s job is direct interaction with the clients served (children, families and relatives) including direct, face-to-face contact with clients in their homes and in office conferences, and also other forms of communication (e.g., phone, technology, etc.).  However, the role of community partners is critical. Child welfare professionals in DFCS work cooperatively with many other organizations, agencies, and community support groups to improve the lives of some of Georgia’s most needy, vulnerable, and troubled children and families.  These include schools, mental health agencies, the courts, the medical community, and other social services agencies.  Typically, multiple services are needed by the children and families served by DFCS. A primary responsibility of the child welfare professional is to assist in providing and coordinating these services. 

 

Social Services Protect and Placement (Child Welfare) Staff Requirements

Applicants for Social Services positions in Georgia DFCS must have a bachelor’s degree from an approved, accredited college or university and work related experience. Acceptable Behavioral Science degrees will include but may not necessarily be limited to:  Anthropology, Child Development, Cognitive Science, Counseling, Criminal Justice, Family Development, Human Services Administration, Gerontology, Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychobiology, Psychology, School Counseling, Social Work, Sociology.

A degree in Social Work is preferred, and required in some metro Atlanta counties. Social Services Case Manager positions require one year of related experience (e.g. human services experience in the areas of case management, assessment and referral, supportive counseling, intervention, psychosocial therapy and treatment planning). Social Services Supervisor positions require two years of directly related experience.  A two-semester internship at DFCS, working with a DFCS caseload, can substitute for directly related experience.

The majority of applicants for DFCS Social Services positions apply for case manager positions.  All new case managers participate in a three-month intensive training and certification process that includes live, virtual and on-the-job training.  Persons who hold Bachelor’s degrees or above in an approved behavioral science field and have approved child welfare work experience in the public sector may be authorized to exempt some or all of the training. 

The training may require out-of-county travel with overnight stays.  Mileage and overnight stay reimbursement are provided for work-related travel. Mileage reimbursement is not provided for travel from a residence to work.  Possession of a valid driver’s license and consistent access to an insured vehicle is required as a condition of employment.

New DFCS Social Services professionals are assigned reduced caseloads. They are also assigned a mentor and provided supportive supervision during the three-month training and certification process.

Case managers who work directly with families and children are given a cell phone and laptop computer. The laptop makes it possible for case managers to record observations and other notes while in the field for inclusion in case documentation, review client history, write case plans and complete other necessary and required paperwork.

Each employee must use his/her personal vehicle when working with clients (e.g., visits to homes and schools, other agencies/organizations, courts etc. and/or when providing transportation for children and/or adults, etc.). Automobile insurance costs are the responsibility of the employee.  Mileage reimbursements for work-related travel are made at standard rates as approved by the State of Georgia.

Work in Social Services is unpredictable and often labor intensive.  Staff must be willing to accept on-call and non-traditional work hours. Given the seriousness of some situations, it is necessary for a Social Services case manager or supervisor to be on-call after regular work hours and/or weekends. Current DFCS policy allows for the accumulation of compensatory time in these situations.  Occasionally, overtime pay is authorized.

In accordance with relevant laws, all Social Services professional staff members are subject to a criminal records check and drug screening.

 
A Typical Day as a Social Services Case Manager in Georgia DFCS

It is important that those seeking employment in Georgia DFCS give careful and thoughtful consideration to what the work actually entails and whether this is the right job for you.  The work is fast-paced and responds to the crisis nature of family situations, which requires good time management and organizational skills.  A child welfare professional may come to work and not be able to accomplish any of the tasks on that day’s to do list as new, more pressing problems become a priority. A case manager could expect to make home visits to assess the safety of or danger to children reportedly abused or neglected, work with families to develop a case plan as well as assess the progress or lack thereof in meeting case plan goals.  Transporting clients to receive health, mental health, substance abuse, and other treatment services is typical and can take up the better part of the day depending on where the client lives in proximity to service providers.  Case managers write court reports on cases, provide court testimony and regularly work with attorneys for the parent, child and DFCS.  Documentation on every case is critical, must be kept current, and may take from 20-40% of a worker’s time. 

Case managers for children in foster care also locate relatives and foster families or other placement services for children and physically transport children who may be upset about life circumstances.  Many children have serious psychiatric diagnoses, have experienced significant trauma and may be further traumatized by being removed from their families. As with their families, the children may view child welfare workers as intruders rather than helpers.  The work is sometimes quite unpredictable and stressful, particularly for new employees.  Workers make unaccompanied home visits to clients homes, which may be unclean and in disarray, located in unsafe neighborhoods or isolated areas. Workers make regular phone and email contact with clients, service providers, foster parents, and others involved with the family.

 
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How large are caseloads/workloads?

The size of caseloads varies from county to county and is impacted by other workload factors. The most current data regarding caseload size is available through the DHR website via the link, “How do I find DFCS outcome measures and results.”

What professional development opportunities exist?

The DFCS Child Protection Certification program provides professional knowledge and skills development for staff to help them develop the expertise needed in their specific jobs.  Relevant professional development activities are offered that allow staff to be rewarded for engaging in continued certification through 20 hours of in-service training each year. Advanced knowledge and skills training provided through the Professional Excellence program is developed in response to regional needs assessments.

More information is available on the DFCS Education and Training Services page on the Department of Human Services website. To access the information, visit:  http://dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/education-and-training

What about personal safety on the job?

DFCS values the safety of its employees. New case managers receive both formal and on-the-job training to develop skills related to identifying, responding to and resolving potentially dangerous situations. Workers are provided cell phones for their use while working away from the office. Supervisors help case managers evaluate situations. When deemed appropriate and necessary, a case manager may be accompanied by a co-worker or law enforcement personnel when making home visits to clients. Case managers learn to be aware of, but not anxious, about their surroundings and situations that they may encounter.

By anticipating crisis situations and practicing sound case management skills, case managers can diffuse most crises and deliver services without jeopardizing worker or client safety.

What are the characteristics of a successful DFCS child welfare employee?

  • has a professional commitment to and concern about clients and the Social Services profession
  • exhibits a personal resilience and strong self-efficacy beliefs about the ability to work with clients to produce positive client outcomes
  • possesses efficient organizational and time management skills
  • demonstrates good oral and written communication skills
  • displays a positive perception of the work and profession
  • is an open-minded consensus builder who seeks input, objectively examines relevant information and considers a variety of options to resolve problems
  • has realistic expectations about the difficulty and challenges of the work
  • is able to handle an often unpredictable work environment
  • has a high tolerance for frustrating circumstances
  • balances the stressors in one’s personal and professional lives
  • desires to be self-reflective about one’s work and to learn from others
  • has the physical stamina to perform the essential functions of the job
  • displays a sense of humor

What organizational supports does DFCS offer you?

  • formal training via live and virtual delivery methods
  • high quality on-the-job supervision
  • mentoring
  • personal safety training
  • professional development
  • professional organizational culture
  • support resources (e.g., personal computer, cell phone, laptop, etc.)
  • supportive administration
  • promotional and career opportunities

 *These findings are from the 2003 statewide study of child welfare employee retention and turnover in Georgia completed by the University of Georgia School of Social Work)

 What is the starting salary?

Job Code

Position Title

Paygrade

Special Entry Salary

Entry Qualifications

SSP070 Social Svcs Spec 1 - Social Services Case Mgr, Associate G $ 35,387.99 Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.
SSP071 Social Svcs Spec 2 - Social Services Case Mgr, Adv - Social Services Case Mgr (BSW) H $ 38,926.79 Master's degree in any behavioral science from an accredited college or university OR Bachelor's degree in Social Work from an accredited college or university AND One year of experience at lower level Social Svcs Spec 1 (SSP070) or position equivalent.
SSP072 Social Svcs Spec 3 - Social Services Specialist (MSW) I $ 42,819.47 Master's degree in Social Work from an accredited college or university OR Bachelor's degree in Social Work from an accredited college or university AND One year of experience at lower level Social Svcs Spec 2 (SSP071) or position equivalent AND/OR One year of law enforcement work in a related area.
SSP073 Social Svcs Spec Spv - Social Services Supervisor J $ 47,101.41 Master's degree in Social Work from an accredited college or university AND One year of experience in a lead/supervisory capacity OR Bachelor's degree in Social Work from an accredited college or university AND Two years of case management experience at the lower level Social Svcs Spec 3 (SSP072) or position equivalent. DeKalb and Fulton Counties: Bachelor’s degree in social work from a School of Social Work accredited by the Council on Social Work from an educational institution accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (www.chea.org) and twenty four (24) months of case management experience in a social services program of the Division of Family and Children Services or similar social services case management experience in a human services delivery program ( family/children services, juvenile justice, mental health, military health care, or comparable private social services agencies)
-or-
DeKalb and Fulton Counties: Master’s degree in social work from a School of Social Work accredited by the Council on Social Work from an educational institution accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (www.chea.org) and twenty four (24) months of case management experience in a social services program of the Division of Family and Children Services or similar social services case management experience in a human services delivery program ( family/children services, juvenile justice, mental health, military health care, or comparable private social services agencies)

 


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Do you think this might be the job for you? Great. A Self-Assessment may help you decide.

 Self Assessment: Social Services Case Manager

 

Why should I take the self-assessment?

The presence of a consistent, dedicated child welfare worker has a direct, positive impact on accurate assessments of child safety and on permanency outcomes for children under the State’s care. Turnover of staff reduces accurate assessments of child safety and a child’s successful reunification with the family, placement with relatives or adoption. Staff turnover also interferes with the continuity and quality of services to children and families. Thus, it is important for those considering a career in child welfare to carefully evaluate their own personal characteristics and to understand the DFCS work context as well.

The self-assessment is designed to provide you with additional information about whether a position in child welfare in Georgia DFCS is for you. The items are related to employees’ intentions to remain employed in child welfare. Therefore, an honest self-assessment can help you make a decision about whether employment in Georgia DFCS in child welfare is right for you. The self-assessment tool is anonymous and can assist you in deciding whether to make a formal application for employment in child welfare in Georgia DFCS.

In evaluating each self-assessment item, reflect carefully on your own personal characteristics and professional career as a potential employee in child welfare. Be as honest as you can in your ratings of each item. There are no right or wrong answers, only those that will inform you about the extent to which you may or may not be a good fit for a child welfare position in Georgia DFCS.

Instructions: After reading each question, decide if the item is true or false for you. Add your score for each question and compute a total score. Compare that score to the score ranges at the end of the self-assessment to determine if a job in child welfare would be a good fit for you.

 


 


I cant imagine enjoying any profession as much as public child welfare.

I intend to remain in child welfare as my long-term professional career.

I would remain employed in public child welfare even though I might be offered a position outside of child welfare with a higher salary.

I believe the personal and professional benefits outweigh the difficulties and frustrations of working in public child welfare.

I am not actively seeking employment outside the field of public child welfare.

I am enthusiastic about working in public child welfare.

My personal success in working with every client will not be an important factor in determining whether I will remain employed in child welfare.

Even though career and promotional opportunities in public child welfare are somewhat limited, I remain strongly committed to a long-term career in public child welfare.

Even though many DFCS clients live in disadvantaged and/or dangerous neighborhoods, I am willing to make home visits using my own automobile.

As a child welfare professional, I believe I can have a positive and long-lasting influence on children and families in need.

I am committed to working in public child welfare even though it requires a considerable amount of time (20-40%) to complete required paperwork and case documentation.

I am willing to be on call for work during evenings and on weekends if necessary, even though overtime pay is generally not allowed.

I am the kind of person that can handle a lot of ongoing stress and unpredictable situations and work environments like those in public child welfare.

I believe I currently have the educational background, personal experiences, and abilities to be successful as public child welfare professional.

I would continue to work in public child welfare even if I did not need the money.




If, after careful self-reflection and consideration, you believe you are an appropriate fit for public child welfare work in Georgia DFCS, we invite you to send us a professional résumé that describes your educational background and work experiences along with a cover letter of that includes your complete personal contact information.  In the cover letter, briefly describe your motivation and career goals related to working in the area of public child welfare and the personal characteristics and/or experiences that particularly distinguish you from other applicants that merit your selection for a public child welfare position in Georgia DFCS.