How to Work for Child Protective Services
Working for Child Protective Services can be very rewarding. It can also, however, be demanding and stressful. Every state has different requirements for the job. Nevertheless, there are certain similarities across states.
Researching Job Requirements
Understand what Child Protective Services does.Child Protective Services (CPS) is not a routine 40-hour a week job. It can involve overtime, irregular hours, the need to enter dangerous situations, etc. You could be required to investigate allegations of neglect and remove children from the homes of their parents.You may need a police escort for some situations, and you will likely encounter people who are hostile toward you.
- Caseworkers also coordinate teams of service providers, staff, and family members. As part of this teamwork, caseworkers help families navigate and access government benefits.
- Caseworkers may also need to appear in court to testify. They may need to prepare court reports, assist attorneys with court actions, and coordinate service of witness subpoenas.
- A job as a CPS caseworker is heavy with paperwork. About 40% of your time will be spent documenting facts by drafting reports and other required paperwork.
Research the education requirements.Most CPS jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree, typically in social work. With this degree, you will learn many relevant skills, such as how to perform client intake, crisis intervention, and case management. Some employees go on to get a master’s degree in social work.
- You may also have to complete an internship as part of your educational requirements. As part of the internship, students gain experience in supervised casework.
- If you want to work in a large city, such as New York City, then you would be advised to learn a foreign language. Applicants who have language skills in another language (like Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian Creole, and Bengali) will be attractive applicants as they can more easily service families who don’t speak English.
Investigate licensing requirements.Some states may require that you become a licensed social worker before you can become employed by CPS. In other states, licensure may be optional.To find the licensing requirements in your state, you should contact your state’s CPS and ask.
- Furthermore, some states may only award advanced licenses, such as a licensed Master’s in Social Work (MSW).
Look at job descriptions.The best way to understand the requirements for a job is to look at an actual job description. Job descriptions are posted regularly on the internet. You can find job postings at most CPS websites.
- For example, the Indiana Department of Child Services has a link for “Careers with DCS.” When you click on it, then you can select “Family Case Manager.”You will be taken to a list of openings.
- You can also search for job opportunities on aggregator sites like Indeed.com by typing in “Child Protective Services” and then selecting the city or state you want to search in.
Applying for a Job
Write a resume.To apply for a job at CPS, you will need a resume. Make sure that the resume highlights aspects of your experience that are relevant for employment at CPS: your education, work experience, and volunteer experience.
- There are many sample resumes on the internet. If you have less than 10 years’ experience, then you should strive to keep your resume under one page in length. If you have 10 or more years of experience, then you can consider a two-page resume.
Apply for jobs.The manner in which you apply will depend on the CPS department you apply to. Some CPS departments will require that you fill out a paper application. Others may request that you create a profile at an online Jobs Center and complete an electronic application.Still, others may require that you email a cover letter and a resume.
Interview for positions.After applying for a position, the interview committee or person tasked with making hiring decisions will review all applications and probably call in a small number of applicants to interview. The purpose of a job interview is to allow a potential employer to observe your abilities and to allow you to discover if the job matches your credentials and career goals. You can prepare for the interview by:
- Researching the CPS department. Try to find out as much about the office as you can. If you have interned or volunteered there before, then be prepared to talk about your experience and how it qualifies you for the job.
- Getting organized. Print out extra copies of your resume or cover letter. Carry them in a neat folder.
- Practicing with a friend. You should come up with a list of questions you think CPS will ask you and then practice answering with a friend or in front of a mirror. Pay attention to your speaking style and mannerisms. You want to come across as confident and relaxed.
- Visiting Prepare for a Job Interview for more tips.
Remain persistent.You might not get the first job that you apply for. This does not mean that you are not qualified to work for CPS. Rather, all it means is that someone with better qualifications or connections applied for the job and received it over you.
Address weaknesses in your resume.If you received feedback about gaps or weaknesses in your resume, then you should address those in order to make future applications stronger. If you did not get a social work degree, then you may need to take additional coursework in that field. Or, if you have no experience working with families and children, then you may need to get some.
- For example, you could volunteer at a CPS in order to gain experience as well as a better understanding of the day-to-day job duties. At the Texas CPS, over 3,000 volunteers contribute 135,000 hours of volunteer service annually.
Video: Child Protective Investigators: A Day in the Life
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