Preparing Graduates for the Child Welfare Workforce

Antonia Cordero, DSW Robin Spath, PhD
Kathi Crowe MSW '83 New Executive Director of Waterbury Youth Services
Kathi Crowe MSW ’83

The UConn School of Social Work and the CT Department of Children and Families (DCF) have established the Connecticut Partnership for Child Welfare Excellence. The SSW is one of only eleven schools of social work in the U.S. to be selected to participate in this five year federal grant funded by the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children & Families, and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In all, thirty-five MSW students will receive stipends to complete field education placements at DCF and have priority consideration for employment at the agency. Students selected for this program will receive a stipend of $13,714.

Currently, eight second year Casework and Group Work students are engaged in the program. The goal of the five year grant is to assure a highly competent child welfare workforce that can effectively serve the needs of CT’s vulnerable children and families, particularly families of color, who are overrepresented in the child welfare system. All of the seven May 2015 graduates have been hired at DCF or at child welfare affiliated agencies.

Antonia Cordero, DSW and Robin Spath, PhD are the co-Principal Investigators. Antonia is the faculty advisor for the students and co-teaches the field seminar. Robin oversees project planning and implementation. The Project Director is Kathi M. Crowe, MSW ’83, LICSW, who has over 35 years of experience working in child welfare/administration and manages the day to day needs of the CT Partnership, co-facilitates the field seminar and serves as adjunct faculty in the MSW program. Mary Harris-Miller, MSW ’94, LCSW, is the field instructor and facilitates a monthly clinical training workshop for all students.

Many CT DCF staff are not exposed to the rigors of masters level social work education, which is uniquely designed to provide students with theoretical, methodological and supervised clinical practice experiences with historically underserved and disempowered populations.  Child welfare workers’ knowledge and skills need to be enhanced to provide culturally competent, trauma informed, and evidence based/informed child welfare services.

Enormous social and economic disparities exist in CT, as a state with a legacy of racial injustice.  These disparities include overrepresentation of African American and Latino children in the child welfare system and underrepresentation of African American and Latino child welfare workers.  This initiative complements the new Strengthening Families practice model adopted by DCF by enhancing the educational level of DCF staff. It also enhances the MSW curriculum, making it more responsive to contemporary child welfare workforce needs.  To further address the current workforce needs of DCF and its clients, current DCF employees are a priority population for this program as are minority, bilingual and male candidates.

Students selected for this program complete their advanced year field placement at DCF. In addition, they enroll in a two semester integrative seminar which meets twice a semester. Students must also complete two required child welfare courses, one each semester, including Child Maltreatment, taught by Kathi Crowe, and a course on Trauma-Informed Care, taught by Dr. Megan Berthold.