The Consortium for Social Work Training in Aging: Schools of Social Work in Partnership with County Departments of Adult and Aging Services
Scharlach, Andrew E., Robinson, Barrie K., Journal of Social Work Education
RAPID INCREASES 1N THE SIZE and diversity of the elderly population have prompted concern regarding the adequacy of existing social work resources for meeting the increasing needs of older persons. More than 15 years ago, it was estimated that at least 60,000 social workers were needed to provide aging services (National Institute on Aging, 1987), yet only about 5,000 of the National Association of Social Workers' 155,000 members cite aging as their primary field of practice (Rosen & Zlotnik, 2001). Moreover, only about 3% of MSW students specialize in aging or gerontology, and fewer than 2% of other MSW students take any courses whatsoever in aging during their graduate training (Damron-Rodriguez et al., 1997).
Consortium for Social Work Training in Aging
In an effort to increase the number of professional social workers trained to provide effective service in the field of aging, the Consortium for Social Work Training in Aging (CSWTA) was developed. The CSWTA training model had three goals:
1. Improve social work students' ability to practice effectively with elderly and disabled clients.
2. Increase students' knowledge and understanding of aging programs and services.
3. Increase the capacity of schools of social work and county departments of adult services to train MSW students to work with older adults and their families.
The CSWTA was one of six implementation sites of the Geriatric Social Work Practicum Partnership Program (PPP), part of the John A. Hartford Foundation of New York's (JAHF) Geriatric Social Work Initiative, a national project to strengthen and advance social workers' practice with older adults by enhancing social work education's capacity to train aging-competent social workers (Council on Social Work Education, 2001). Although the specifics of each PPP vary, all share five essential elements: (1) university-community partnership--coalitions among university social work programs and community health and social service agencies designed to provide optimal gerontological field education for students; (2) competency-driven education for geriatric social work--field experiences aimed at facilitating students' attainment of competencies and skills for working effectively with older adults; (3) integrated field education-rotations through a variety of programs and agencies serving older adults, which vary in the services provided and the populations served; (4) expanded training staff roles--supervision of students, coordination of learning assignments among agencies, development of integrative seminars on policy and clinical practice, and consultation on curriculum development; and (5) focused recruitment of students to geriatric social work--outreach through brochures, posters, conferences, and websites promoting geriatric social work. Students accepted into the project are provided with incentives such as stipends, networking opportunities, subsidized conference attendance, and career counseling (Volland, Gartrell, & Lawrence, 2003).
The CSWTA is facilitated by the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley and includes San Francisco State University, San Jose State University and six county departments of aging and adult services (DAAS) in California (the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma). The CSWTA is the only PPP site focused exclusively on public aging services. This focus reflects the schools' common mission of improving public social services and preparing students to work effectively with the vulnerable elderly populations served by county aging service systems. It also reflects the importance of these services to California's increasingly diverse elderly population. Indeed, of any state, California is home to the largest population of people over 65 years of age of any state and also has the most diverse population of any state other than Hawaii.
Public-sector aging services comprise a unique array of programs and services for vulnerable elderly and disabled adults that are not available from other sources. These services are of increasing importance as a result of several significant trends: (1) federal and state devolution of services and programs to counties; (2) state initiatives that allow counties to integrate the funding and administrative structures of their long-term care systems; (3) expanded service mandates for county adult protective services; and (4) the development of county "public authorities" with responsibility for overseeing the delivery of state-funded in-home supportive services.
Despite the increasing importance of public aging services, there has been a gradual de-professionalization of DAAS, which impairs counties' ability to provide effective services. A 2001 survey of California's public aging services departments found substantial gaps in professional education and training among the state's aging services personnel (Scharlach, Simon, & Dal Santo, 2002). In adult protective services, where advanced assessment and intervention skills are needed, only 42% of the workers had an MSW; among other case-management programs, 36% of workers had an MSW. Fewer than 12% of workers in various other programs (e.g., mental health, information and referral, in-home support services) had an MSW. Hispanics, who make up 28% of the general population, were under-represented. Managers indicated that the primary barrier to hiring aging services personnel was a lack of qualified applicants. Heavy workloads and a lack of professionally educated social workers were impairing service quality, and the lack of MSW field supervisors meant that few graduate-level gerontology internships were available in county aging services. The CSWTA was designed to address these issues.
Development of CSWTA
In 1998, the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley invited field directors from San Francisco State and San Jose State Universities and DAAS directors from counties in the greater San Francisco Bay area to join a work group that later became the CSWTA. With grant support from JAHF, representatives of the three schools and the five counties met monthly for a year to develop the training model and the procedures needed to implement it. Among the procedures developed were a standard student application, guidelines for recruiting and selecting field instructors, detailed descriptions of field instructors' and training coordinators' responsibilities, and coordinated field placement calendars and processes. Representatives …
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Publication information: Article title: The Consortium for Social Work Training in Aging: Schools of Social Work in Partnership with County Departments of Adult and Aging Services. Contributors: Scharlach, Andrew E. - Author, Robinson, Barrie K. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Social Work Education. Volume: 41. Issue: 3 Publication date: Fall 2005. Page number: 427+. © 1999 Council On Social Work Education. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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