Child development and social work : Social Development

Child development and social work

Alumni Rios working with a family.“By uniting the best of social work and child development knowledge and practice, we are creating a new kind of social worker, ” says M.S.W. director . “The program will help students develop a comprehensive toolkit — containing knowledge, values, and skills — for working with children and families in the context of their culture and communities.”

Erikson’s M.S.W. program launches as demand is increasing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for social workers who work with children and families will grow 20% between 2010 and 2020. And infants, young children, and their families are the fastest growing populations in the child welfare and mental health systems.

“We are positioned to prepare the next generation of leaders in this burgeoning field, ” says Knight. “Leaders who understand that simple social justice demands system-level change for children and families.”

Social work from the beginning

Erikson and social work have been connected since Erikson’s founding. Social worker Lorraine Wallach, along with Maria Piers, , and Irving B. Harris, established the Institute in 1966.

Since 2001, Erikson has offered a dual degree program in partnership with Loyola University Chicago, enabling students to earn a Master of Science in Child Development from Erikson and an M.S.W. degree from Loyola. Because Erikson’s new M.S.W. program combines both degrees into one program, the partnership with Loyola will end in 2015 when current dual degree students graduate from Erikson.

Alumni Rios working with a child.Alumna Robin Rios, M.S. ’09, M.S.W. (Loyola) ’10, considers the dual degree program to be one of the best investments she ever made.

“I could not have made a better decision for myself personally or professionally, ” says Rios, a child therapist and social worker at the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago.

Because of the program’s integration of child development and social work, she has the skills to work with a range of clients, including parents of young children, children with special needs, mothers struggling with postpartum depression, and adolescents on probation.

“Even in my work with adolescents, I always turn to my Erikson education to think about how their childhood has influenced and affected their behavior as 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds, ” says Rios.

When she heard about Erikson’s new M.S.W. program, Rios couldn’t help being excited.

“All I could say was ‘Wow.’ My child development degree was top-notch. I can only imagine how amazing Erikson’s social work program will be.”

One-of-a-kind program

Through Erikson’s M.S.W. program, students will gain an understanding of the breadth of social work and the depth of child development.

“Our students will approach all of their social work with a developmental lens, ” says Knight. “By considering the child’s development from every perspective — cultural, physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and language — our students will be able to craft interventions that are effective and take into account the complexity of children, families, and communities.”

This complexity presents itself in every interaction. A five-year-old who is disruptive in the classroom might be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). An Erikson-educated social worker will move beyond the immediate problem and consider the whole child: Has the child developed the ability to regulate emotion? What is the family’s culture? Does the family expect the child to be quiet at home, or is assertiveness valued? Is there a new stress at home that may be contributing to the disruptive behavior?

Armed with this holistic view of the child, the social worker can partner with the teacher, family, health care providers, and others to create an appropriate intervention.

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