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What Does an Adoption Social Worker Do?

July 28, 2022

Social workers play a critical role in the adoption process. In addition to matching children with prospective families, they also work with governmental institutions to place children who have been legally separated from their parents into adoptive homes.

Students interested in pursuing this highly rewarding career can seek job opportunities in a variety of settings, such as adoption law centers, local adoption agencies and national adoption agencies, among others. Additionally, social workers can specialize in different areas within this field, such as international adoptions for children from specific regions of the world or domestic placements — or both.

Aspiring adoption social workers must start by developing the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be successful. Completing an advanced education, such as the online Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University, can prepare graduates with the training to work with children, adoptive parents and pre-adoptive families.

Adoption Social Worker Job Description and Work Environment

Adoption social workers perform a variety of duties, such as attending foster care reviews and court proceedings, performing assessments of children referred for adoption, and attending meetings with adoptive parents. Although the specific day-to-day responsibilities for professionals within this field can vary based on the agency they work for, other common duties may include the following:

  • Preparing paperwork to initiate and finalize adoptions
  • Maintaining case records
  • Matching children with pre-adoptive families
  • Conducting frequent in-home visits after children are matched with an adoptive family
  • Recruiting and assessing prospective adoptive parents
  • Facilitating the transfer of a child’s records, such as educational and medical records, to their new school and primary care provider

The adoption process can be quite complicated and sometimes emotionally taxing. Adoption social workers are instrumental in helping individuals and families navigate its logistical requirements, guiding them through the various steps and answering whatever questions they may have. Adoption social workers also provide emotional support and counseling.

A standard 40-hour work week is not typical for this profession, which may often require evening and weekend hours. Additionally, whereas adoption social workers perform certain types of administrative work, such as preparing reports and updating case files in an office environment, much of their work takes place off-site. Examples of common off-site job duties include traveling to meet with attorneys, conducting home visits with children and families, and attending court proceedings.

Educational and Licensure Requirements

Aspiring adoption social workers need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or social work, to be considered for employment. Applicants who’ve completed an advanced education, such as an online master’s in social work program, are likely to have the best job prospects.

Licensing requirements for this position vary by state. For example, many states, such as California and Connecticut, do not require licensure for social workers unless they’re performing psychotherapy or clinical social work.

If a license is required, some states allow social workers to pursue licensure as long as they hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Other states require applicants to have completed both a master’s degree in a related field and a set number of post-master’s clinical hours working under the supervision of a licensed social worker before they can sit for their licensing exam.

Salary Ranges for Adoption Social Workers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have a stand-alone category for adoption social workers. Instead, it classifies this specialization within a broader category that encompasses all social workers. According to BLS data, the median annual wage for professionals in this field was $50,390 as of May 2021, although earners in the top 10th percentile reported wages of more than $84,840.

Salary ranges for adoption social workers can vary widely based on a variety of factors, such as an applicant’s experience level; whether they’ve earned an advanced degree, such as an online master’s in social work; and the region in which the position is located. For example, during that same reporting period, while the annual mean wage for child, family and school social workers in California was $64,940, the annual mean wage for those working in Texas was $49,310.

Adoption Social Worker Job Outlook

The BLS projects the overall employment of social workers, including adoption social workers, to grow by 12% between 2020 and 2030. That is considerably faster than the average occupation projection (8% growth). Furthermore, the BLS projects that approximately 78,300 openings will become available each year during that same period.

Many of these openings will likely result from the need to replace workers who leave the workforce to retire or for other reasons or who choose to transfer to other professions.

Earn an Online M.S.W. and Pursue Your Dream of Becoming an Adoption Social Worker

Students interested in working in a field that allows them to find supportive, caring homes for children of all ages may be drawn to a career as an adoption social worker.

Although entry-level jobs are available for applicants who’ve completed a bachelor’s degree, earning an advanced degree, such as an online Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University, can prepare them with the specialized skills they’ll need to be effective.

Core courses in the VCU M.S.W. Program include Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families and Groups; Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders; and Human Behavior in the Social Environment, among others. The program curriculum is designed to provide graduates with the expertise necessary to excel in various areas of social work, including adoption social work.

Are you ready to take the next step toward advancing your social work career? Discover how VCU’s M.S.W. Program can prepare you for the job you want.