Training Eyes Workforce Shortage

Nine universities have been selected to implement BSW and MSW traineeship programs in an effort to boost leadership capacity among the child welfare workforce.

The effort is being led by the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI), which is being funded through a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services along with eight universities and the National Indian Child Welfare Association. Among NCWWI’s goals is to develop leadership capacity among the child welfare workforce.

This workforce is facing challenges by the imminent retirements of experienced staffers as well as high turnover and staffing shortages. In response, the Children’s Bureau is supporting a number of initiatives, including the NCWWI and five additional workforce projects that offer trainings. It is expected that such efforts will improve outcomes for children and families in the public, private and tribal child welfare systems.

According to Joan Levy Zlotnik, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research, who also serves on the NCWWI’s national advisory group, the five-year cooperative agreement of the NCWWI is a new way for the Children’s Bureau to address child welfare workforce training needs and to establish the institute as part of the expanding training/technical assistance network.

Nancy S. Dickinson, NCWWI project director, said that social workers are ideally suited to be child welfare professionals. “Social work has always been the predominant profession concerned with children, youth and families in the child welfare system,” said Dickinson, clinical professor and executive director of the Jordan Institute for Families, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “There is evidence that professionally educated social workers are better prepared for child welfare work. They stay longer and influence organizations to support best practices.”

NCWWI will implement the training to students at the nine selected schools of social work with financial support to those who participate in child welfare-focused BSW or MSW curriculum and field placements in order to prepare for leadership roles in child welfare agencies.

After an extensive peer-review process, the following programs were selected to implement the training in partnership with NCWWI: Briar Cliff University, Iowa (BSW); Case Western University, Ohio (MSW); Clark Atlanta University, Ga. (BSW); Portland State University, Ore. (MSW); Salem State College, Mass. (BSW); University of Illinois-Chicago (MSW); University of Maryland (BSW/MSW); University of Montana (BSW/MSW); Yeshiva University, N.Y. (MSW).

Katharine Briar-Lawson, co-principal investigator with the NCWWI, said social work leaders are excited to be collaborating with the institute. “Our institute will be a spearhead for coordinated leadership and workforce development for the 21st century child welfare systems spanning public, private and tribal communities,” said Briar-Lawson, dean and professor at the School of Social Welfare, University at Albany, State University of New York.

The eight universities collaborating for the NCWWI are the University of Albany; the University of Iowa; the University of Denver; the University of Southern Maine; Michigan State University; the University of Michigan; Fordham University; and the University of North Carolina.