Campus News

COVID-19 Highlights Need for Trained Social Workers, Child Welfare Certificate

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 20, 2020) As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, social work is among the essential services that has not been put on pause. Instead, practitioners have stepped up to help communities and families in need.

Kimberly Emeric hopes to one day be one of them.

“I chose social work, because I want to make a difference in the lives of those around me,” she said. “I want to be that beacon of hope for those who feel lost and don’t know where to turn.”

Emeric is pursuing a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Kentucky. Additionally, she is well on her way to earning a Child Welfare Practice Certificate (CWP) from the College of Social Work (CoSW).

The unique program — launched in May of 2019 — prepares students for advanced practice with abused and neglected children.

“Children are one of our most vulnerable populations and are the future of our communities,” Emeric said. “Ensuring that children are protected and loved is the greatest responsibility and the best investment we can make.”

The CWP certificate is a series of specialized graduate courses that provide in-depth study, and development, of the necessary expertise to serve children and their families. The coursework also offers MSW students the opportunity to enhance their degree and resume.

“Child welfare practice requires professionals to be life-long learners, due to the complex factors that contribute to child trauma — such as poverty, substance use disorder and violence,” Kalea Benner, associate dean for academic and student affairs, said. “Improving safety and well-being outcomes for children and their families requires in-depth study of child welfare policy and research.”

Students who complete the certificate will improve their knowledge for serving children in a variety of settings, including public child welfare agencies, community mental health centers, hospitals and nonprofits.

“I would definitely recommend this certificate to anyone interested in working with children. It provides a thorough and comprehensive curriculum for learning about issues specific to children,” Emeric continued. “It also quickly and clearly tells a future employer that you earned a certification that other applicants may not.”

Career opportunities include:

  • assessment clinicians
  • case managers
  • child evaluation specialists
  • child and family impact service coordinators
  • child protective service practitioner 
  • in-home services clinicians
  • school service workers
  • therapists
  • youth services specialists

Nationally, the need for child and family social workers continues to rise. In fact, it’s estimated that job openings in the field are projected to grow 10%-14% between 2014–2026 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016).

Additionally, COVID-19 is shining a spotlight on the greater need for advocates to help children entering the welfare system.

“Well-trained practitioners will be better equipped to handle the ever-changing circumstances that COVID-19 brings," Emeric said. “It is imperative that we lean on our skills and talents to adapt to unprecedented times, so that we can effectively serve our community in a time of need.”

In May, 16 students graduated with a CWP certificate — marking the first set of cohorts to complete the program.

To help students become well-rounded practitioners, the CoSW offers a wide array of certificates. To learn more about those programs, you can visit the college website.

Additionally, you can apply for the Child Welfare Certificate online. For more information or questions, you can contact Kalea Benner.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.