The organisation which represents 1,300 social workers has told the Oireachtas its members often enter where others fear to tread - but the delayed release of inspection reports "rains further blows on perhaps already demoralised staff".
The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) also told an Oireachtas committee on children and youth affairs that its members needed to be "acknowledged by society rather than being constantly blamed".
The IASW was addressing the committee on the recruitment and retention of social workers which has been a persistent issue in recent years and acknowledged by the Child and Family Agency as a serious challenge.
Áine McGuirk, IASW chair, said social workers operated in a high-risk environment "where there are no perfect solutions, and where their efforts are rarely recognised or acknowledged".
"The work of Tusla is affected by shortages of staff, lack of experienced staff, complex and demanding caseloads, ever-increasing regulation, and greater public scrutiny," she said, and believed negative feedback, increased workload and lowering of morale sometimes discourage students from such a career path.
Outlining the professional difficulties faced by members, she said: "Some communities have become very hostile places with higher risks associated with home visiting.
"Violence as a solution has become more commonplace, and guns and other weaponry the tools of the drug dealer. Tusla Social workers deal with families in all these environments including areas that other services sometimes refuse to enter."
Ms McGurk noted the ISAW saw "no evidence of a national recruitment campaign".
As for inspections by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), she said: "The regulator is not present during actual social worker-client interactions and therefore they can only evaluate the written evidence of those pieces of practice.
The release of reports into the public domain many months later when staff have worked hard to address concerns raised causes renewed attention from media and rains further blows on perhaps already demoralised staff.
The Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) also addressed the committee and said the shortfall of social workers was "acute" in some areas.
It said possible solutions could include Tusla developing social work/allied health professionals in a combined role, a mentoring programme and part-time study options.
The IASW put forward a string of recommendations, including increasing the number of places in all colleges offering courses, the streamlining of recruitment processes, temporary contracts directly with Tusla, better caseload management and better incentives, such as additional payment for those that stay in the sector.