The Child Welfare Fellows program, which was created in 2009 to increase the number of public child welfare employees with social work master’s degrees, has been funded again and expanded. In its first five years of funding, the specialized training program has been awarded more than $1.1 million from the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute with matching funds provided by the Mandel School and 25 child welfare employees in three Northeast Ohio counties (Cuyahoga, Lake and Summit) have obtained their Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA) degrees. With the expansion, the program is now open to full-time public child welfare staff in seven additional Ohio counties: Medina, Stark, Ashtabula, Geauga, Richfield, Huron and Trumbull.
The project is just one of 13 programs in the nation funded by the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute of the Children’s Bureau and is part of an ongoing evaluation process that includes national evaluation and tracking of fellows. Child Welfare Fellows offers up to five students/employees per year the opportunity to obtain scholarships for earning their MSSA degree in three years through the Mandel School’s Intensive Weekend program, which allows them to maintain full-time employment. For each year of funded graduate education, participants must return a year of public child welfare employment after graduating.
Strengthening the Current Child Welfare Workforce
The Child Welfare Fellows program has several distinguishing features, none more important than the fact that it supports professionals at local child welfare agencies who have demonstrated at least a two-to three-year commitment to the work. The expectation is that graduates will either enter or expand leadership roles in their agency.
Another distinguishing feature is that students move together through the master’s degree program as a cohort. This approach allows participants to expand their professional child welfare network, as their fellow students each weekend become their professional contacts during the week. It also encourages more in-depth learning, as student’s professional experiences and knowledge sharing enrich reading assignments and classroom discussions.
“Becoming the recipient of the fellowship was life altering. Although I was a working professional, other financial responsibilities prevented me from considering graduate school. This scholarship eliminated that barrier and gave me the opportunity to grow and develop as a leader in the child welfare field.”
More Opportunities for Professional Development
Supervision and leadership coursework are part of the plan of study for each participant. The project also provides an enhanced field learning experience through individual and small group meetings to help students integrate field and course work. Prior to graduation, fellows prepare a portfolio presentation that documents their abilities and child welfare competencies over time in the program. These poster presentations culminate in a luncheon and presentation of a certificate for being part of the national initiative.
Mandel School faculty members involved with the program include: Associate Professor David Crampton (firstname.lastname@example.org), Assistant Professor Zoe Breen Wood (email@example.com) and Beth Brindo, field faculty advisor and leadership coach (firstname.lastname@example.org).