Agents of change

Federal grant to expand MSASS’ Child Welfare Fellows program

In the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (MSASS), there are small navy magnets that liken social workers to “Change Agent[s],” because a career in social work often involves a desire to improve the lives of individuals, families and communities.

Now a four-year $588,000 federal grant hopes to create more “Change Agents”. It will provide tuition for 20 child welfare workers to attend the Child Welfare Fellows program at MSASS to receive further preparation in social work.

One of only 13 similar programs funded by the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, the Child Welfare Fellows program at Case Western Reserve University provides higher-level training for social workers from counties in Northeast Ohio.

“Looking at the satellite view of what the grant was about and what the federal government had in mind, [the grant] was an opportunity to fund universities to have advanced training,” said field faculty advisor Beth Brindo. “We could build a more skilled workforce in public agencies.”

Brindo believes placing masters-level social workers in local welfare agencies will have a ripple effect that will ultimately benefit the community by allowing for positive outcomes regarding the health and safety of families.

“Social workers, with our clinical training and our way of applying to better the lives of individuals, families and groups in every community, really raise the standard of healthy living in the community,” Brindo said.

According to Victor Groza, director of the program, fellows first become licensed at a higher level as social workers and then develop skills in evidence-based practice. The program will also help candidates develop leadership and management skills.

“We expect graduates to become leaders and higher-level managers in their organizations after graduation,” said Groza.

Given the changing landscape of the field of social work, the program also incorporates new forms of media and communication methods.

“The field is much more data driven, and child welfare is being held to higher standards in the outcomes they are expected to achieve,” Groza said. “Our program prepares graduates to use data in informing all aspects of their social work practice.”

Groza hopes that using products like FaceTime and other aspects of social media will enhance the connection between the fellows, their respective field education agencies and the university. Fellows will also be able to participate in webinars as a part of their training.

The fellows will gain more experience in social work by working at public child welfare agencies where they will investigate and act upon cases of child abuse and neglect.

“Social workers are change agents,” Brindo said. “Through our work in the community, we change things for the better. We work with people who change things for the better.”

In addition to providing training in social work, Brindo feels that the fellows program demonstrates the level of commitment the university has to various outreach programs in local communities.