Each academic year, UVM Department of Social Work offers between 2 and 5 child welfare traineeships to social work students currently enrolled in the BSW or MSW program at the University of Vermont. The traineeships provide significant financial support for social work education to students who have a strong commitment to child welfare practice. In exchange for this support, the students agree to focus their studies on practice in child welfare and commit to employment as a social worker within Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) following graduation. This project supports professional excellence in public child welfare social work practice with vulnerable children and their families.

The project provides traineeships and support to students who are current employees of DCF and to those who are not employees.

BSW students about to enter their junior year and MSW students who are newly admitted to the MSW program are encouraged to apply for consideration. Financial support is generally offered over two academic years. However, some years the project may also have one year traineeships available. Students who expect to complete their studies within one academic year may also submit an application for consideration. o have one year traineeships available. Students who expect to complete their studies within one academic year may also submit an application for consideration.

History and Background of the Project

The Child Welfare Professional Education Project was created in 1993, through a partnership between the Department of Social Work at the University of Vermont (UVM) and the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) to provide social work education and training to child welfare social workers. One of several projects sponsored by the partnership, the Professional Education Project provides current and future public child welfare employees the opportunity to acquire a professional social work degree. Funding for this project is provided through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, the State of Vermont, and the University of Vermont.

The overall aim of this and other child welfare education projects throughout the United States is to improve the quality of child welfare services nationally by providing professional education in social work to public child welfare employees. Research has shown that child welfare social workers with BSW or MSW degrees are better prepared for practice (Dhooper, Royce, & Wolfe, 1990), are more effective in practice than workers with undergraduate or graduate degrees in disciplines other than social work (Olsen & Holmes, 1982), and are more effective with effective permanency planning for children who’ve been in foster care for more than two years. Further, research has shown that workers with a professional social work degree are more likely to stay in child welfare practice (CWLA, 1990; Russell, 1987).

During its first year, the traineeship opportunity was primarily offered to current Vermont state employees in the division formerly known as Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) and presently known as the Family Services Division of DCF. The project’s early trainees pursued education towards the MSW degree at UVM and received tuition support and a stipend while in school. The traineeship project evolved to provide an option for state employees to receive their full salary and benefits, as well as tuition support, while attending school full time. The project later expanded its traineeships to students who agree to become Family Services social workers after completing either the MSW or BSW program. Future employees receive full tuition and a stipend while enrolled at the university. In the fall of 2007, the project expanded its scope once again by opening up this opportunity to state employees who work as Reach-up case managers in the DCF’s Economic Services Division, since these employees also serve IVE eligible children.

The traineeship helps to support the overall mission, vision and goals of Vermont's plan to transform services for children and families. To learn about this plan and the current direction of public child welfare practice in Vermont, go t:o

http://dcf.vermont.gov/

Project Results

As of fall 2014, the trainee project at UVM has supported 173 student trainees, 57 of whom entered their studies as a current state employee. Today, it's estimated that almost one third of all FSD social workers have earned a social work degree through the project. Further, a number of the projects graduates serve in supervisory or leadership roles in the agency.

References

Child Welfare League of America. (1990). Florida recruitment and retention study. Washington, DC: CWLA.

Dhooper, S.S., Royse, D.D., & Wolfe, L.C. (1990). Does social work education make a difference? Social Work. 35(1): 57-61.

Olsen, L. & Holmes, W. (1982). Educating child welfare workers: The effects of professional training on service delivery. Journal of Education for Social Work. 18(1), 94-102.

Russel, M. (1987). National study of child welfare job requirements. Portaln, ME: University of Southern Maine, National Resource Center for Management and Administration.