Child protective services, or CPS, workers are social workers who specialize in helping abused and/or neglected children and their families. Most CPS workers have at least a bachelor's degree in social work or a closely related field, like counseling or psychology, but many also have master's degrees. Taking certain classes in college provides you with the foundation you'll need to be an effective, competent CPS worker.

Child Abuse Reporting

The name of the course can vary by state, but all CPS workers must take a class on the identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect. This course is generally a requirement for social work education programs. If you decide to major in a different area, you need to take this course independently before you can become a CPS worker. In many cases, you can take the course online. This course covers all areas of child abuse and neglect, including identification, assessment and reporting suspected cases of child maltreatment.

Child and Adolescent Development

CPS workers need to have a good understanding of child and adolescent growth, development and behavior. They also must have a thorough knowledge of attachment and bonding, separation, loss and identity development, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. You will learn about these issues in your coursework on human behavior and the social environment. Human behavior and development courses are usually required for social work, counseling, marriage and family therapy and psychology students.

Family Systems

CPS workers must also understand the role of the family as a system and the effects of external issues, such as poverty, drug abuse and family and community violence on the family unit. Family systems courses are generally included as a part of most mental health-based degree programs. Family systems courses include studying the structure of different types of families, such as blended families, single parent families and traditional families, the impact of multiculturalism and diversity issues on the family and interventions and goals of family therapy.

Psychosocial Assessment

A psychosocial assessment is an initial evaluation made by CPS workers when they first meet with children and their families. The assessment takes into account all of the biological, psychological and social issues that have an impact on a child and his family. CPS workers need to have a thorough understanding of assessment and interviewing techniques, including identifying the presenting problem and other potential influences on the problem. Many schools offer specific courses on psychosocial assessment, while others include assessment as a part of social work or counseling practice and theories coursework.

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