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Adoption counselors, or adoption social workers, work with birth parents, adoptees, adoptive parents and foster families to provide assistance and support during the adoption or foster care process. Counselors also often provide lifelong support to assist their clients with issues related to medical records or help adoptees unite with birth parents, in some circumstances. As of May 2011, the average annual salary for adoption counselors in 2010 was $44,410, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Education and Training
The specific educational requirements for an adoption counselor usually vary based on the preferences and needs of the hiring agency. Generally, most adoption counselors must have at least a bachelor's degree in social work, counseling or psychology, but many agencies may require job applicants to have a master's degree in one of these fields. Some agencies may also require candidates to hold a current state license to practice in their field. Additionally, many agencies prefer candidates who have previous experience providing counseling or mental health services to children and families.
Adoption counselors provide counseling and emotional support to parties involved in adoption and/or foster care situations. They work to ensure the overall well-being of the newly-formed family and help birth parents cope with the separation process. Many times, adoption counselors act as home finders, helping to locate suitable placements for adoptees and children in foster care. In addition, they are responsible for providing information and referral about social services to their clients, educating their clients about the adoption process, providing advocacy and case management services and acting as mediators to help facilitate legal arrangements. In some cases, adoption counselors work with adults who were adopted to provide counseling, support and information.
Many adoption agencies require candidates to have a valid driver's license and the use of their own vehicle to travel to home visits to interview potential foster families or adoptive parents; some agencies provide company vehicles. Adoption counselors must generally also participate in their state's required course on the identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect.
Being an adoption counselor can be stressful and emotionally-draining, so candidates need to have the ability to adapt and handle high levels of stress. In addition, adoption counselors must be able to effectively perform a number of administrative duties, such as filling out paperwork such as treatment plans or case notes. Adoption counselors should be informed and keep current with federal and state adoption laws and regulations.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.