How to Become an Adoption Consultant

Опубликовал Admin
9-11-2016, 17:00
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Adoption counselors, consultants and case workers provide critical work by managing successful adoptions. They provide valuable support to both the adoptive parents and the birth parents during the adoption process. These consultants often work with a variety of organizations, from public adoption agencies to licensed, private adoption agencies. This article will show you how to build a rewarding career as a consultant with an adoption agency.

Completing Your Education in Social Work

  1. Earn your bachelor's (BSW) and master's degrees (MSW) in social work. In order to work in a consulting role with an adoption agency, most states will require that you have at least a master's degree. For undergraduate study, you can pursue your degree in social work, but you can also consider related fields such as psychology or family counseling.
  2. Pursue an undergraduate degree in social work. During your undergraduate career, you will take courses on human behavior and development, social welfare, and the economic and political conditions of social crises like poverty and homelessness. Maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and foster professional relationships with your professors. Consider working with professors who focus on child and family welfare and adoption counseling. Many MSW programs will want to see that you have completed a statistics course as well, so you should consider taking that for your math requirement.
    • You should also pursue an internship or volunteer with an adoption agency so you can experience the daily administrative workings of the agency. Always maintain a helpful, compassionate and professional attitude. Show your supervisors that you are serious about this line of work: you're not just an intern, you're a future colleague.
  3. Enroll in a MSW program. For your master's degree, find a program that offers field work opportunities with multiple adoption agencies so you can get a diverse range of hands-on experience. This will be crucial experience in order to find work in a supervised position after your graduate.
    • Consult your undergraduate professors and your college's career center for help on applying to MSW programs. Most MSW programs require a 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, 3-4 letters of recommendation and a 1-3 page application essay in order to be admitted. Your career center or college writing center can help you draft and revise your application materials so you will be a competitive candidate for the program.
    • Make sure that your MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). There are more than 238 accredited MSW programs in the U.S.
  4. Complete work in a supervised position. After you complete your MSW program, most states will require that you spend 2-3 years working in a board-approved supervised position related to your field; the requirements vary from state to state, but you will generally have to complete 3,000 hours. Draw upon your professional network of professors, supervisors, and other colleagues as you embark upon your job search. You should use your supervised work experience to decide if you want to work with a public agency and place children in the foster care system with adoptive families or if you would prefer working with licensed private agencies.
    • Public adoption agencies often work with adopting children in the foster care system to families who can meet their needs. Licensed private agencies often work with families who are interested in adopting healthy infants. Some states will contract with private agencies to facilitate adoptions from the foster care system.
  5. Complete certification for becoming a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Many states require that adoption counselors have earned a license as a clinical practitioner in addition to earning a MSW. Earning this license will generally require passing an exam distributed by your state's chapter of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). You will need to contact your state's chapter of the ASWB in order to get approval to register for the test. You can find more information on gaining your license here[1]
    • The clinical exam distributed by your state's ASWB chapter is a four hour, 170 multiple choice question test. It will cover a range of clinical practice questions on human behavior and development, diagnosis and assessment standards, and the ethical standards of that state's chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). It is graded on a pass-fail basis; you will generally need to correctly answer between 93-106 questions in order to pass.
    • You will need to study over an extended period of time for the exam; do not cram for it in the few days before the test. Set a clear schedule over a period of weeks and months and use study guides such as the one provided by the ASWB.[2] Your graduate university or your state's chapter of the NASW may also offer study courses for the clinical licensing exam.
    • If you fail the course, most states require that you wait 90 days before re-taking the exam. The ASWB will give you an outline of your test explaining which areas need the most improvement.

Applying for Adoption Counselor Positions

  1. Select an area of focus. There are many routes you can take as an adoption counselor. You might consider working as a counselor for adoptive parents or as an advocate for the birth parents of the child. Your previous field work and supervised work experience should be your guide in selecting specific positions for application.
  2. Consider becoming a birth parent counselor. Birth parents often experience a range of emotions during the adoption process including grief, fear and loss. Helping your clients cope with these emotions will be an important component of your work.
    • You might also consider working with birth mothers or birth parents who are unsure if they want to pursue adoption. You can inform them of their options while also providing them information on the process of adoption. Governmental departments such as Health and Human Services and non-profits like Planned Parenthood often help connect these adoption counselors to birth mothers.
  3. Become a counselor for adoptive parents. As a counselor in this role, you will help adoptive parents navigate the often long and complex process of adoption. You will need to make sure they are aware of the many options they have in pursuing adoption (with public, private or international agencies) as well as preparing them for any potential obstacles during and after the adoption process.
  4. Decide whether you would like to work with a public state agency, a licensed private agency or an international agency. By working with a public adoption agency, you will be helping children in the foster care system who are sometimes older. You will also work as a counselor to both the parents and the child as they transition from the foster care system to the adoptive home. If you work in a private, licensed adoption agency or an international agency, you are more likely to work with infants and parents who are interested in adopting infants.
  5. Prepare to conduct home studies. If you are working as a consultant with an adoption agency, you might be required to visit the home of the prospective adoptive parents and assess it according the state guidelines and/or the requirements of your licensed private agency.
    • In addition to assessing the physical condition of the home, counselors conducting home studies will also need to evaluate the emotional state of the adoptive parents, including their concerns and anxieties as well as their general views on parenting and family life.

Advancing Your Career

  1. Look for advanced positions in your agency. After working as a consultant with an adoption agency, you might want to consider advancing into an administrative role with your agency, such as an Executive Director or Operations Director. In this more advanced role, you would ensure that your agency meets all state-level licensing standards for child-placing agencies. This will give you a well-rounded sense of how an agency operates and will allow you to evaluate the adoption process from the perspective of everyone involved: the biological and adoptive parents, the child, the individual counselor and the broader administrative goals of the agency.
    • You should work in this advanced role for at least 2 years in order to see if you would like to continue at this level of responsibility in your own agency. As you take on more responsibility, you will become a public representative of your organization. You should focus on connecting your agency to other important groups that work in family welfare, child development at the state and federal level.
  2. Open your own agency. After taking on significant responsibility at your former agency, you might wish to create your own agency. The requirements to open your own agency will vary from state to state, but you must ensure that you are meeting all of your state's licensing and certification requirements. Your state's licensing requirements are usually distributed by the Department of Family and Social Services or a similarly named entity.
    • Starting your own agency will require having things like a business plan, a marketing calendar and a workable budget. You can find a guide to coming up with these kinds of materials here.[3] You will also want to collaborate with domestic and international adoption agencies as you set up your own business; draw upon your professional network for support as you embark upon this new venture.
    • Seek out highly qualified staff to make up your new agencies. Consider offering mentorship programs to new counselors and consultants so they have a strong professional network in your agency.
  3. Continue your education. As you move into more administrative roles, you might consider pursuing certifications in project management or master's degrees in non-profit administration, public administration, or other management specializations. You could also consider pursing a Ph.D. in Social Work if you are interested in conducting research on adoption.
    • Many social workers with a Ph.D. focus on issues of public policy; if you have an interest in researching adoption policies and making recommendations for improving these policies, then the Ph.D. will be a fruitful route to explore. If you have an interest in teaching social work at the college level, the Ph.D. will also be an important credential for getting that position.
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