Child Welfare Fellows: Leadership Training for Child Welfare Workers

Jun 14 2015


The Child Welfare Fellows program, which was created in 2009 to increase the number of public child welfare employees with social work master’s degrees, has been funded again and expanded. In its first five years of funding, the specialized training program has been awarded more than $1.1 million from the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute with matching funds provided by the Mandel School and 25 child welfare employees in three Northeast Ohio counties (Cuyahoga, Lake and Summit) have obtained their Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA) degrees. With the expansion, the program is now open to full-time public child welfare staff in seven additional Ohio counties: Medina, Stark, Ashtabula, Geauga, Richfield, Huron and Trumbull.

The project is just one of 13 programs in the nation funded by the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute of the Children’s Bureau and is part of an ongoing evaluation process that includes national evaluation and tracking of fellows. Child Welfare Fellows offers up to five students/employees per year the opportunity to obtain scholarships for earning their MSSA degree in three years through the Mandel School’s Intensive Weekend program, which allows them to maintain full-time employment. For each year of funded graduate education, participants must return a year of public child welfare employment after graduating.

Strengthening the Current Child Welfare Workforce

The Child Welfare Fellows program has several distinguishing features, none more important than the fact that it supports professionals at local child welfare agencies who have demonstrated at least a two-to three-year commitment to the work. The expectation is that graduates will either enter or expand leadership roles in their agency.

Another distinguishing feature is that students move together through the master’s degree program as a cohort. This approach allows participants to expand their professional child welfare network, as their fellow students each weekend become their professional contacts during the week. It also encourages more in-depth learning, as student’s professional experiences and knowledge sharing enrich reading assignments and classroom discussions.

× “Becoming the recipient of the fellowship was life altering. Although I was a working professional, other financial responsibilities prevented me from considering graduate school. This scholarship eliminated that barrier and gave me the opportunity to grow and develop as a leader in the child welfare field.” Marquetese Betts

More Opportunities for Professional Development

Supervision and leadership coursework are part of the plan of study for each participant. The project also provides an enhanced field learning experience through individual and small group meetings to help students integrate field and course work. Prior to graduation, fellows prepare a portfolio presentation that documents their abilities and child welfare competencies over time in the program. These poster presentations culminate in a luncheon and presentation of a certificate for being part of the national initiative.

Mandel School faculty members involved with the program include: Associate Professor David Crampton (, Assistant Professor Zoe Breen Wood ( and Beth Brindo, field faculty advisor and leadership coach (

For more information about the Child Welfare Fellows program, visit, or contact Victor K. Groza, Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies (, or Gerald A. Strom, Senior Instructor and Intensive Weekend Program Director (

New Federal Award to Fund Health Integration and Training for At-Risk Youth

Jun 13 2015

David Hussey, PhD

A new training program at the Mandel School aims to close the gap in behavioral health care services for at-risk children and transition-age young adults ages 18 to 25 while preparing social work master’s students for careers in advanced clinical practice.

The training program, known as Health Integration Training Expansion (HITE), is funded by a three-year, $421,000 federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program.

HITE is a new integrated physical and behavioral health training sequence (also referred to as integrated health) that builds upon and expands the strong behavioral health competencies social work students already acquire at the Mandel School. It will prepare students to practice from a more integrated health focus, working with other health care workers to provide comprehensive health care.

Under HITE, up to 30 second-year social work master’s students in the child or adult mental health specialization will receive a training stipend and gain first-hand experience working beside doctors and nurses in several Northeast Ohio agencies doing field work with children and transition-age youth.

HITE reflects the goals of U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Healthy People 2020,” an initiative to eliminate health disparities nationally, said David Hussey, PhD, associate professor of research and co-director of the social work school’s Dr. Semi J. and Ruth W. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education.

In Cleveland, integrated health approaches are critical because of high poverty levels, poor health behaviors, exposure to violence, and mental health and substance abuse issues, Hussey said.

“The presence of a mental illness is of particular concern for transition-age youth, because the illness often leads to poor outcomes across several areas, including housing, education, employment, social relationships and quality of life. These youth often have long social service histories across multiple agencies, such as child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health,” Hussey added.

HITE leverages and expands strong connections with premiere health providers in Cleveland, including the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, The MetroHealth System and Neighborhood Family Practice.

Each student will complete hands-on experience in a clinic or agency setting as part of their field work and advanced curriculum courses focused on health, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, or children, youth and families—all populations treated by local health centers. Field and course work will focus on social worker competencies in the areas of mental health, addictions, dual disorders, trauma treatment, violence and risk assessment (self harm), and integrated health practice. Students are also required to present a professional development seminar for peers addressing integrated health needs of at-risk youth.

For more information about HITE, contact David Hussey, Associate Professor (

Researchers propose new streamlined way to analyze TSCC and trauma in children

Jun 5 2015


The 54-question Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC) has been used for decades to test how trauma affects youth in hopes of developing the best treatment and support possible. But interpreting the results can be labor intensive and difficult because the work is done manually and involves a complex matrix from which to draw conclusions.

Now, a social work research team at the Mandel School led by Fred Butcher, PhD, (left) a research associate at the Semi J. and Ruth W. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education, has proposed and tested an alternative method to use the TSCC in assessing trauma in children—especially those in the juvenile justice system.

Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc. developed the tool and trauma-related questions in 1996. It’s been used around the U.S. and in countries like Sweden and China. The new methods change neither the tool itself nor the questions involved, but rather how workers assess and, ultimately, apply the results.

“Ultimately, it is all about whether the tool is easy to interpret,” Butcher said. “Some kids may have issues in several areas, but when you examine them together, you get a better sense of the severity of the issues they are having.”

Butcher and his team focused on how six mental health factors associated with a child’s trauma (anxiety, anger, dissociation, depression, sexual concerns and posttraumatic stress) were linked and scored.

The Begun Center research team analyzed TSCC test results from 2006 to 2013 for 2,268 children, age 8 to 17, in an Ohio Behavioral Health Juvenile Justice program that diverts young people from incarceration to community-based agencies to work on behavioral, substance abuse and mental health problems. Each child was assessed, as part of their intake into the program so that treatment can be targeted to their behavioral health needs, Butcher said.

The researchers found that traditional TSCC scoring worked to assess their trauma. But when looking at the total score alone, Butcher said a “muddied” picture emerged—one that didn’t provide enough details for appropriately assessing youth and targeting treatment.

Instead, Butcher and his team found that grouping the factors into two areas—one for anxiety, dissociation and post-traumatic stress and the other for anger and depression—made analyzing the results easier and more accurate.

Social workers were given options on how to score the tests, from using a child’s total score to tallying anger and depression responses for one score and anxiety, post-traumatic stress and dissociation responses for another.

Reducing scoring to two groups, Butcher said, can lighten the work burden on social workers and still provide enough useful information to design treatment programs.

“The alternative two-scale solution is not necessarily faster to score,” he said, “but it is much easier to interpret.”

The next step is to test this approach more broadly and determine how the results align with outcomes – both in terms of the accuracy of assessments, and the influence of treatment plans developed from them.

A description of how the new scoring works is detailed in the summer issue of Journal of Society for Social Work and Research’s article, “Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children in an At-Risk Sample of Youth.”

The study was supported with a grant from the Ohio Department of Youth Services and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (4AS3190) to Jeffrey M. Kretschmar, PhD, a contributor to the project who is a research assistant professor at the Mandel School and a Senior Research Associate at the Begun Center.

Daniel J. Flannery, the Dr. Semi J. and Ruth W. Begun Professor at the Mandel School and director of the Begun Center, and Mark I. Singer, the Leonard W. Mayo Professor of Family and Child Welfare and deputy director of the Begun Center, also contributed to the research.