Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

The State of Gerontological Social Work Education in California: Implications for Curricula Evaluation

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

The State of Gerontological Social Work Education in California: Implications for Curricula Evaluation

Article excerpt

The critical workforce need for geriatric social workers is well-documented in the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM; 2008) report, Retooling for an Aging America. Social work is one of the key professions identified for the interdisciplinary approach to services for older persons and their families. The IOM report strategy is to prepare all health care professionals and caregivers for work with older adults and to intensify recruitment and retention of geriatric specialists. Since 1998 the John A. Hartford Geriatric Social Work Initiative (GSWI) has aimed to infuse gerontological knowledge into curricula for social workers through the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) National Center for Gerontological Social Work Education (Gero-Ed Center). As a parallel strategy, the GSWI aims to create a cadre of geriatric social work leaders through the Hartford Partnership Program in Aging Education (HPPAE; formerly Practicum Partnership Program) at the Social Work Leadership Institute at the New York Academy of Medicine.

In 2004 the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) created an Aging Initiative (AI). Since 1990 CalSWEC has been a well-established force to increase the number and quality of child welfare social workers in California. With the support of the Archstone Foundation in 2005, CalSWEC initiated statewide projects to advance social work in aging, including the survey reported here. The AI University Survey objectives were as follows: (1) describe the current status of social work education in aging within the curricula in California graduate schools of social work and (2) compare California results with previous national gerontology curricula surveys providing implications for future criteria to evaluate aging curricula (Damron-Rodriguez & Lubben, 1994; Lubben, Damron-Rodriguez, & Beck, 1992).

One of the ongoing issues related to enhanced education for social workers in aging is whether infusion of content or specialization is optimal (Lowy, 1979). An IOM report (2008) declares the need for both approaches to geriatric curricular development. The GSWI has employed both approaches, and the AI University Survey evaluates both strategies.

Early national surveys of schools of social work created criteria to measure the development and adequacy of aging curricula. In 1988 the California Geriatric Education Center (CGEC) surveyed all baccalaureate and graduate social work programs. The surveys reported that only 3% of graduate students took an aging class (Damron-Rodriguez & Lubben, 1994; Lubben et al., 1992). This figure has been widely used to support the dramatic need for preparation of specialized geriatric social workers and to increase infusion of content on aging to all social workers. The CGEC survey developed a model for assessing the level of curricula development both at basic and substantial levels. Components measured included courses, students, faculty, field faculty, and field placement sites (Damron-Rodriguez & Lubben, 1994; Lubben et al., 1992). This model will be used to provide a frame of reference for the current study of California university social work programs. In addition, national CSWE reports for 2005 will also be used for comparison with the California data for the same year.


Aging Demography: Environmental Pressure

To understand gerontological social work education in California, the environmental and demographic contexts must be considered. As the most populous state in the nation, California has the largest population of older adults as well--more than 3.9 million persons over age 65. Further, the number of older persons in the state is growing at a faster rate than any other state. By 2020 the number of persons over 65 years of age is expected to almost double to 6.5 million and will almost double again to 12.5 million in 2040 (Berg, 2006). This will be an increase of 232% from 1990 (California Department of Aging, 2006). …

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