UNF to distribute eight stipends for social work students in 2016

Tierney Harvey

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Image courtesy of floridasubstanceabuse.com

UNF has been awarded eight stipends of $6,000 to distribute to social work students for the current academic year. The stipends are part of the Title IV-E Child Welfare Stipend Program, which is designed to increase the number of social workers in the field of child welfare.

The program will offer social work students stipends of up to $12,000 if they commit to taking special training courses and working for a child welfare organization for one or two years after graduation. It is sponsored by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students,” Dr. Jennifer Spaulding-Givens said, assistant professor of social work and Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program director.

Dr. Spaulding-Givens said that people go into the field of child welfare with no background in social work and may not have the necessary skills for the job. She noted that no specific degree is required.

The program was enacted after a bill was passed in 2014 that requires the Florida DCF and Community Based Care Agencies to increase the number of social workers they employ, Dr. Spaulding-Givens said. “One way to accomplish that goal is to support social work students’ education.”

This year, DCF has allotted over $5 million statewide to support students in BSW and Master of Social Work programs.

“The idea is that to decrease turnover and improve services in the state, we want to improve the fit between the training of the professionals and the job itself,” Dr. Spaulding-Givens said. “The burnout rate is really high in this area of practice.”

“The argument is that social workers are very well prepared to fulfill the types of job duties that are required of child protective investigator and case managers in child welfare,” Dr. Spaulding-Givens said.

Dr. Spaulding-Givens is an Assistant Professor and the BSW Program Director. Photo by Harvey
Dr. Spaulding-Givens is an Assistant Professor and the BSW Program Director. Photo by Tierney Harvey

The extra training required of social work students who receive the stipend will better prepare them to work in child welfare and let them know what to expect, Dr. Spaulding-Givens said. “Between the courses and the fieldwork, they are very well prepared and they have a really good understanding of what being a child welfare professional entails.”

“The idea is to improve retention and decrease turnover, which is good for the state and good for the agency. It saves money,” Dr. Spaulding-Givens said. “But most importantly, it improves the services to the children and families who are our most vulnerable in the state.”

Out of 200 stipends available in the state, UNF was awarded eight stipends. There are currently 80 students in UNF’s BSW program.

This year, the stipends are available to juniors in the BSW program, Dr. Spaulding-Givens said. Next year, juniors and seniors will be eligible. According to the Title IV-E Child Welfare Stipend Program brochure, “Eligible students will receive a $6,000 stipend per year for up to two years.”

UNF’s stipends will be distributed to students in full in January. However, Dr. Spaulding-Givens said that in the coming years, students will get $3,000 in the fall and $3,000 in the spring.

Certain criteria must be met for eligibility, including full-time enrollment in the BSW program.

“Primarily, they have to have a real interest and commitment to working in child welfare. There is a one-year work commitment per stipend. Obviously, this isn’t a good way to get funding for school unless you are really committed to working in child welfare,” Dr. Spaulding-Givens said.

“We’ve been working hard with students to educate them about what that work would entail to be sure that it’s a good fit.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the program can contact Dr. Spaulding-Givens by phone at 904-620-7699 or by email at [email protected]

Dr. Spaulding-Givens said UNF is still searching for a person to be the instructor and coordinator for the program.

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