Many agency administrators begin their careers on the front lines of child welfare. They generally receive their MSWs before continuing up into management. Read through the stories below to hear how these administrators got where they are today.

Jane Waldfogel, M.Ed., Ph.D., Professor of Social Work & Public Affairs, LSE & Columbia University

Career

Jane Waldfogel is a professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia University School of Social Work and a visiting professor at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics. During the 2008-09 academic year, she was the Marion Cabot Putnam Memorial Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University where she was writing a book about Britain’s war on poverty. Waldfogel received her Ph.D. in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has written extensively on the impact of public policies on child and family well-being. Her books include: Britain’s War on Poverty (Russell Sage Foundation, 2010); Steady Gains and Stalled Progress: Inequality and the Black-White Test Score Gap (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008); What Children Need (Harvard University Press, 2006);Securing the Future: Investing in Children from Birth to College (Russell Sage Foundation, 2000); and The Future of Child Protection: How to Break the Cycle of Abuse and Neglect (Harvard University Press, 1998).Her current research includes studies of work-family policies, improving the measurement of poverty, and understanding social mobility across countries.

Child Welfare Beginnings

My first real job was as a case-carrying social worker at the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS). My caseload was incredibly varied, mostly child protective cases, but also adolescents in need of services and even some voluntary clients. In those days, we were co-located in welfare offices, so I also got to know programs like welfare, Food Stamps, and Medicaid first hand. I later went on to a policy job at the DSS Central Office and then left to get my Ph.D. in public policy. But I still feel like much of what I know about child and family policy, I learned during those years working directly with clients. I'm so glad I had that direct service experience.

Brenda McGowan, MSW, DSW, Chair of Child Welfare Studies, Fordham University

Career

Dr. Brenda McGowan is the James R. Dumpson Chair of Child Welfare Studies at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. She formerly served as the Ruth Harris Ottman Professor of Family and Child Welfare at Columbia University School of Social Work. She has taught in the areas of clinical and advocacy practice and family and children’s services for over 30 years. She previously engaged in child welfare practice in Boston and served as an associate in the Juvenile Justice Division of the Children's Defense Fund. She has also been active in a number of child welfare advisory committees and has served as expert witness in several class action cases related to children’s services in New York City.

Dr. McGowan is the author or co-author of five books as well as a number of articles and monographs related to the delivery of family and children's services. These include several publications focused specifically on child welfare services in New York City. Her current research is focused on staff recruitment, job satisfaction, and retention in child welfare agencies.

Child Welfare Beginnings

I was a sociology major in college with no clear idea of what I wanted to do after graduation when I read about a new program called Careers in Social Work for students in the summer between their junior and senior years. I applied and spent the summer attending seminars on social work practice and working as a case aide in a local child welfare agency. By the end of the summer, I knew I wanted to go into social work. After graduation I was fortunate to obtain a caseworker position at Boston Catholic Charities, a large child welfare agency. I was quickly given a large caseload of pregnant teenagers, foster homes, and adoptive families. I had little idea what to do – wasn’t even sure how to diaper the babies I had to move into foster homes – but I received great supervision and enormous help from my many colleagues. Within a year I felt certain I was doing one of the important jobs in the world and couldn’t stop talking about all the important challenges I faced.