Paula Roots was awarded an MBE for services to the community in West Lothian.
Now retired, Paula was latterly group manager, Early Years and Early Intervention, with West Lothian Council and started as a trainee social worker with the authority in 1974.
Paula (65), who stays just outside Linlithgow with husband Jack, said she is delighted to be honoured.
She said: "I couldn't believe it at first and thought it was a wind-up by my husband.
"It's great for social work which is not normally a profession that is recognised. Social workers don't work for an honour or an award so it was a huge surprise."
Since retiring in March, Paula, who has two children, a step daughter and a grandson, spends much of her time volunteering and is currently on the board of Homestart West Lothian, Sure Start Midlothian and volunteers at the family centre for visitors at Polmont Prison.
She has spent her entire career with West Lothian Council and added: "I have worked in social work since 1974.
"West Lothian has been a great place to work and you can really make a difference in social work by staying in the community."
During her career Paula has written articles on social work and contributed to chapters of published books on the subject area. Reflecting on highlights from her career in social work she said: "The most rewarding thing now is I'm still in touch with three of the boys I was a social worker for. I've been able to see them grow into their 30's, 40's and 50's as real contributors to society.
"One is a carer, one's training as a social worker and the last time I met the other one he said he wanted to be a policeman.
"They have their own families and are well adjusted. I think that even if I only made a difference to just those three individuals then everything will have all been worthwhile."
West Lothian's Lord Lieutenant Moira Niven said: "It's wonderful to have Paula honoured by the Queen in the 2018 New Year's Honours List.
"Paula spent over 40 years helping some of the most vulnerable people in West Lothian and it fantastic that she has been recognized with an MBE."
Provost Tom Kerr added: "Congratulations to Paula on her award.
"Paula spent her entire career helping young people in West Lothian and this award is richly deserved.
"It is tremendous that her years of service to West Lothian have been recognised by the Queen and this will be a very proud time for her family and friends."
And Jane Kellock, the council's head of Social Policy, said: "Paula was a lovely person to work with and spent so many years helping young people in West Lothian.
"She was a popular, respected and trusted colleague to many of us until she retired last year and we are all extremely proud of her."
Congratulations Paula from everyone at West Lothian Council.