Evaluation of an Innovative Social Work Education Model: The Kentucky Public Child Welfare Certification Program (PCWCP)

By Barbee, Anita; Sullivan, Dana et al. | Journal of Social Work Education, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Evaluation of an Innovative Social Work Education Model: The Kentucky Public Child Welfare Certification Program (PCWCP)


Barbee, Anita, Sullivan, Dana, Borders, Kevin, Antle, Becky, Hall, Christopher J., Fox, Steve, Journal of Social Work Education


IN AN EFFORT TO RECRUIT and retain committed and outstanding bachelor of social work (BSW) graduates in the practice of public child welfare, in 1996 the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS, formerly Cabinet for Families and Children) developed an innovative educational program through a collaborative effort between child welfare and eight accredited BSW programs across the state. The innovative aspect of the Public Child Welfare Certification Program (PCWCP) as compared to other stipend programs across the nation (Boyd, Morrow, Shobe, & Tack, 2006, North Carolina; Clark, 2003, California; Lawson et al., 2006, New York; Phillips, Gregory, & Nelson, 2003, Idaho; Pierce, 2003, national; Scannapieco & Connell, 2003, Texas) is the fact that it was developed by faculty and administrators of the eight universities in collaboration with one another and with the administrators and trainers from CHFS. This original team codeveloped the structure of the program, learning objectives for the two courses, syllabi for the two courses, field placement in the public child welfare agency, and textbooks and content of the courses (see Fox, Burnham, Barbee, & Yankeelov, 2000; Fox, Miller, & Barbee, 2003; Fox, Burnham & Miller, 1997, for more information about the PCWCP's development and progress through the years). This differs from other BSW child welfare programs that educate students in the siloed confines of their own colleges and universities. Although many partnerships between university social work programs and public agencies in child welfare have been part of an effort to help improve the readiness of the child welfare workforce for this challenging field of practice (U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAOl, 2003; Zlotnik, 2002), no state other than Kentucky had so many partners, as indicated by the number of departments and schools of social work collaborating to design and deliver an entire program.

This program has been sustained for 11 years (1998-present) and has been replicated in some form in several states across the nation, including Georgia, New York, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. This collaborative preemployment and educational program recruits excellent BSW majors in their sophomore or junior year of college to take part in a specialized curriculum during their latter years. Upon graduation from the program, they are prepared to take on complex child welfare cases with normal supervision within weeks (rather than months) of employment in the state's public child welfare offices.

Although some states (e.g., California) have extensive preemployment programs, the universities often do not use the same syllabi, teach identical courses, or collaborate extensively with the state's training branch in revising course content to match the policy and practice initiatives in the state. Kentucky partners have been able to meet the practice needs of the agency and at the same time enhance the academic quality of course work to maintain a commitment to the mission of the universities. For the purpose of this article in the Council on Social Work Education's premier journal aimed at social work educators, we want to highlight the structure of the educational experience for students in the PCWCP across the participating eight public universities and three private colleges and describe the evaluation results for the first 10 years of the program. The evaluation results show the efficacy of specialized BSW education in preparing students for social work practice in the complex field of child welfare. The evaluation results also reveal the long-term effects on agency outcomes, particularly retention of workers.

Student Selection

The same protocol for selecting students is used by each of the 11 institutions that participate in the PCWCP. Students must complete a written application, provide three letters of recommendation, meet specific selection criteria (including an overall GPA of 2. …

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