The Consortium for Social Work Training in Aging: Schools of Social Work in Partnership with County Departments of Adult and Aging Services

By Scharlach, Andrew E.; Robinson, Barrie K. | Journal of Social Work Education, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

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. …

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