Career Pathways Tool >> Working with Children

My ideal career is a:

Family Specialist/Counselor

Family specialists/counselors include a wide variety of early childhood professionals who help families access the resources they need to care for their children. Today’s families are often faced with challenges that require the help of community agencies. Some families may only need help finding a child care, Head Start or Pre-K placement. Other families, faced with economic issues, may need support services to pay for child care. Occasionally, families may experience health, developmental or emotional crises that require special intervention services. A family specialist may provide information and education, refer families to services, assess eligibility for funds to pay for services, or deliver direct counseling and support services.

Family specialists/counselors need to have a basic understanding of child and family development, child care licensing regulations, knowledge of community resources (private and public) and the ability to communicate this information to parents. Family specialists/counselors may provide services in the child’s home, the early care and education setting or in an agency office. Some have particular content expertise, such as child care referral counselors who help families learn about the various types of child care and what is available in their community, or child care social workers who assess eligibility for child care subsidy. Others may need to know about a wide range of family support services and be able to respond to the varying needs of families in their caseloads. For example, the family services coordinator within a Head Start program may need to help families with such diverse needs as finding appropriate housing, accessing transportation to work, locating employment, finding child care for younger siblings or providing counseling needed as the result of a divorce or separation.

Family specialists/counselors may need to assess community needs for services as well as individual family needs. Often they may need to visit families at their homes or provide families with transportation to obtain needed services. Some family specialists may provide parenting education and coaching during home visits or through workshops in the community. Other family specialists may provide educational activities and materials and model their use during home visits as well.

Family specialists/counselors must be respectful of cultural diversity and sensitive to the individual needs of families. In addition, family specialists/counselors must be both a good listener and effective communicator, as well as have the ability to collaborate with service providers and other family specialists/counselors in the community to ensure that families get all the services they need. They also need to have good documentation skills. Often the data they collect through interactions with families is used to document changing community needs, gaps in services and to shape new services/supports to meet those needs.

Job possibilities at:

Child care resource and referral agencies

Head Start programs

Local departments of social services

Health and mental health agencies

Community agencies

Recommended education

Bachelor’s or graduate degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development, Public Health, Social Work or Nursing

Typical salary range

$19,070 – $69,140