How to Become a Child Protection Officer in Australia
As a Child Protection Officer, you play an important role in the lives of children at risk of harm. You should feel passionate about helping to protect children, as well as enjoying interacting and working with people. In your daily work, you may work with families to help them improve their situation. Or you may need to make hard recommendations in relation to children at risk. Sometimes, you may work with children who have been offending, aiming to support them to improve their lives. Thus, your aim is to help them realise their potential and contribute positively to society.
Your work involves paperwork and administrative duties as well as being out and about. Much of the work takes place out of the office as you meet with families and children. Above all, you carry out assessments of families, investigating their situation in order to make recommendations. Then, you manage the case as it progresses.
Child Protection Officers work in challenging and sometimes upsetting situations. You will need to use an analytical frame of mind to make judgements. Furthermore, you will often deal with people from a wide range of backgrounds and it is important to relate to them.
Do you enjoy working with people? Would you like to make a positive difference in children’s lives protecting them from harm? If so, then keep reading to discover the steps you need to take to become a Child Protection Officer.
Step 1: Choose Your Course
To work as a Child Protection Officer, you need to have a relevant degree. Therefore, the first step is to choose a relevant course. Different Child Protection Departments may accept different degrees. A degree in Social Services is broadly accepted. But other degrees may also be accepted, such as a degree in Community Services, Social Sciences, Human Services, Health or a related field.
Step 2: Consider Volunteering with the Department of Child Protection
Some regions Child Protection Department have opportunities for people to volunteer. Volunteering is a good way to build up relevant experience and ensure you enjoy the work before committing to a job. Subsequently, this will add something extra to your resume when the time comes to apply for work, demonstrating your commitment to the field.
Step 3: Join the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW)
Once you have completed your course you can join the AASW. This network provides valuable resources to you as a professional as well as connecting you to the wider community of social workers across Australia.
Step 4: Apply for a Job as a Child Protection Officer
Once you have completed your training and gained membership to the professional association you can begin to look for work. As a part of the recruitment process, you must complete required government checks to show you can work with children. Social workers are in demand in Australia at the moment. In addition, the demand is expected to continue to see growth in the coming years.
Step 5: Consider a Specialisation
Once you have built up your experience there are a number of specialisations you can consider to further progress your career.
Child Protection Area Operations Manager
Use your experience from working on the ground to improve and build on the services provided in your area. Support, supervise, and build up the staff in the department. Work with stakeholders to optimise pathways, processes, and systems. In this role, you focus on the bigger picture, and ways to improve the child protection department.
Senior Child Safety Officer
Increase your responsibility after building up your experience as you manage challenging and sensitive cases. Provide mentorship and guidance to less experienced and new Child Safety Officers.
If you would like to further your career you can consider completing further studies to become a Psychologist. Your practical experience working as a Child Protection Officer will provide an excellent foundation to build on. Psychologists are part of the therapeutic team which provides services to young people who may have been exposed to harm and need mental health evaluation and treatment.
What Does Child Protection Officer Do?
As a Child Protection Officer, you have a range of responsibilities related to the cases which are assigned to you. You meet and make assessments of families and the environment the child is living in. As a whole, your aim is to identify when a child is suffering in an abusive environment and to take steps to protect the child from harm. When possible, you work with the family to improve the home situation so it’s not necessary to remove the child. This may involve working with the parents to improve their parenting skills or helping them to resolve problems (such as housing) in order to keep the family together.
You write reports about the meetings which have taken place, behaviours you have observed, and the evidence-based conclusions you have reached. These reports form the backbone of recommendations which are made for the child.
- Meeting families and children at home
- Making assessments of children's situations
- Spending time with children as you play an important role in their life
- Writing reports as an important part of making recommendations for a child
- Managing and monitoring your cases as interventions take place
- Driving to different locations to meet the families and children you are working with
Skills for Success
As a Child Protection Officer, you need to relate to a wide range of people while maintaining your compassion and empathy as you work with them. Your priority is to protect children from harm, and you need to feel passionate about doing this. Furthermore, it’s important to develop your analytical skills and to observe situations carefully. The decisions you make will impact the lives of the children and families you work with, and you need to exercise care without putting the children at risk.
The decision-making path can feel like a tightrope as you balance the child’s needs to stay with their family, against the risk of leaving them in a potentially abusive environment. You need to use your analytical skills to weigh up the evidence. And to make well-reasoned arguments for any actions you recommend. In addition, writing skills are important because along the way you must document the process, including meetings, behaviours or situations you have observed. You must also provide solid arguments and reasoning for any recommendations you make.
Much of the work you do involves being out in the community meeting people and the children you are working with. This means it is important you are able to manage your time, in order to get to meetings on time. Furthermore, you must balance your out-of-office tasks with the administrative tasks which you also need to complete.
Skills & Attributes
- Compassionate and relate-able
- Passionate about protecting children
- Analytical and observant
- Able to work when under pressure
- Quick-thinking and innovative
- Comfortable making tough decisions
- Time management/ organisational skills
How much does a Child Protection Officer make? The average Child Protections office can earn $68,000 per year in Australia. This payrate can vary depending on your experience and abilities, this pay rate is only an indicator, according to Payscale 02/18.