Child welfare agencies nationwide experience a high degree of turnover, which create difficulties for families and programs alike. Only a small portion of degreed social workers are employed by the nationwide as well as local Missouri Children’s Division (CD), which provides services to at-risk children and families.
In an effort to address this issue, Missouri State University’s School of Social Work (SSW) received a grant to provide a partnership between the school and the Missouri CD.
“The grant was designed to provide a pipeline of trained graduates to work with the Missouri CD in an effort to enhance retention of staff, particularly in Greene County,” said Dr. Mary Ann Jennings, professor of social work. “The SSW recruits students to participate and provides specialized courses for grant participants, such as child welfare services, trauma-informed practice and case management.”
The grant also allows students to complete their bachelor of social work (BSW) practicum with the Missouri CD.
Prepping students and dispelling myth
The program, titled Preparation, Retention, Excellence and Professionalism (PREP), is designed to prepare students in-depth for the work which they will do as employees.
“Upon graduation with their BSW degrees, students will assume case manager positions,” said Jennings. “Most, if not all, will work as investigators—into reports of child abuse and neglect—to start with because that is where turnover tends to be the greatest.”
Jennings noted that social workers are not the same as they are portrayed in the media.
“CD staff work very hard to avoid removing children from their homes—if at all possible—because they understand the trauma removal inflicts on children and their families,” said Jennings. “Social workers in child welfare services often are referred to as ‘baby snatchers’ which is erroneous on all levels.”
Jennings says there are three ways that could dispel this myth: asking families who have had positive experiences to provide testimonies, educating policy-makers and joining in on the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) efforts to provide an accurate image of social workers.
The grant, which was awarded in March 2014, will run through May 2019.
For more information, contact Jennings at 417-836-5069.