U helps form social-work program

Sam Boeser

The University is teaming up with other universities across the state to combat the declining number of social-service professionals working in child care.

Their team effort consists of a new program that offers financial assistance and specialized classes to undergraduate students.

The Bachelor of Social Work Child Welfare Consortium is aimed specifically at increasing the number of trained child-welfare service professionals in greater Minnesota.

“This is really a way to develop social-service curriculums for state universities,” said Jean Quam, director of the School of Social Work.

All applicants to the program must be in their junior or senior years of undergraduate study and commit to work in child-welfare services outside of the nine-county metro area.

“The more rural, the better,” Quam said.

Graduates from the program must remain in their social-service positions for the same amount of time they receive financial assistance, or they are forced to pay the money back.

Students receive $1,900 per semester for financial aid while involved in the program. The money comes from a federal grant the program received after state approval, and 55 students currently participate in the program.

The program also places students in county social-service agencies to gain experience in the field before graduation. The students work in the field approximately two days a week.

Because the University does not offer a bachelor’s degree in social work, no undergraduate students at the University are involved with the program.

All students involved in the program come from other state universities; 16 come from St. Cloud State University, 12 from Minnesota State-Moorhead, nine from Minnesota State-Mankato, eight from Bemidji State University, and 10 from Winona State University.

Many of the schools have reported a good response from students hoping to participate in the program.

“Students are getting excited and interested in it,” said Ruth Charles, Social Work Program co-chairwoman at Winona State University.

Quam said students are sometimes turned away from working in child-welfare services in rural communities because of migration into the cities and the status of the job relative to other jobs in the field.

“We are trying to show students that these can be good positions and good opportunities,” Quam said.

Shortages in educated social workers in some areas can cause agencies to hire people not specifically trained in social work.

Students can apply to the program through an application process. Each university has its own application review board that examines a student’s eligibility for the program.

The program is a partnership between the above-mentioned state colleges and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.