“This practice has solidified my understanding that I must create an environment in which clients know that their voices are respected, valued and heard in order to best serve youth and families.”
– 2020 graduate Claire Friedmann
Preparing social work practitioners to engage families, support children, and foster connections.
The Child Welfare Stipend Program is a partnership between the Virginia Department of Social Services and four state universities within Virginia, including Virginia Commonwealth University. This specialized training program, funded through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, prepares social work students for a career in public child welfare.
B.S.W./M.S.W. students accepted into this program receive a $10,000 stipend per academic year, with a work payback requirement (see stipulations below).
Applying to the CWSP
You can now apply to join the Fall 2022- Spring 2023 cohort. We would be glad to talk with you more about the program as well as answer any questions you may have as you are thinking about pursuing a career in public child welfare.
The CWSP at VCU solicits applications for full-time current and prospective students each year to apply to join the program as a part of a cohort that begins in the fall semester. Applications for each cohort open in October for the following academic year cohort.
Complete application packets are due according to the following deadlines (exact dates subject to change each year):
Dec. 15, 2021, for the following groups of students:
- M.S.W. on-campus and online students starting their specialization year (third semester) Fall 2022.
- This group includes M.S.W online students beginning the M.S.W. Program in the Spring 2022 semester on the 16-month track.
Application packets for students to join the CWSP cohort in their third semester (Fall 2022) that are submitted after the Dec. 15 application deadline will not be considered.
March 2, 2022, for the following groups of students:
- Prospective incoming students for the M.S.W. advanced standing formats*
- Prospective incoming students for the M.S.W. regular standing formats*
- Current B.S.W. students going into their senior year Fall 2022
*Prospective students: You may not yet have your M.S.W. admission decision prior to the CWSP application date; however, you still must apply to be considered, as application packets received after the CWSP March 2 application deadline will not be considered.
Students in VCU's B.S.W. and M.S.W. programs can apply for the stipend.
Learn about the application process:
- Application Materials
Applicants must complete this online application form and submit all required documents by the application deadline. Required documents include: a professional reflection (prompts below), two references (requirements below) and a current resume. Application packets for the CWSP at VCU must be submitted by the deadlines detailed above in order to be considered.
- Screening and Selection Process
The CWSP coordinator at VCU and/or Advisory Committee members review and screen application packets. Once admission to the M.S.W. Program is confirmed or B.S.W. status is confirmed, applicants selected for the next stage of the process are scheduled for a required face-to-face interview in person or virtually. During the interview, applicants are asked a series of questions and are informed in more detail of the post-graduation commitment. Applicants are selected for the program based on a thorough review of application materials and the face-to-face interview.
- Student Notification and Acceptance of Stipends
Applicants will be notified in writing via email about the award decision in a timely manner after interviews are completed for each group of applicants. Applicants who are offered a spot in the CWSP and choose to accept the financial award will be required to sign a legally binding contractual agreement obligating them to seek and obtain employment in a local department of social services in Virginia post-graduation in prevention, foster care and/or adoption services. This contractual agreement will be sent to applicants upon award notification. Applicants who choose to accept the stipend must submit a signed copy of the Child Welfare Stipend Program Student Agreement to the coordinator at VCU along with a copy of their M.S.W. Program acceptance letter.
- Important notes:
- Financial awards are communicated to the VCU Financial Aid Office and disbursed to student aid accounts. Acceptance of this stipend may affect other financial aid that you receive. Applicants must contact the VCU Financial Aid Office to determine the impact of the award upon eligibility for other financial aid awards.
- Monies awarded to student accounts are to be used to cover tuition first. If any monies remain in the student account, they may be used to cover applicable fees.
- Your application will be reviewed fully by faculty and community partners tasked with making a recommendation about your admittance to the program.
- Stipend recipients must verify identity and employment eligibility by completing Section 1 of INS Form I-9, providing the required documentation and submitting these to the Child Welfare Stipend Program Coordinator at VCU as part of the admissions process prior to or at the time of signing the contractual agreement.
- If you are selected for an award, you will be required to complete a Request for a Search of the Child Protective Services Central Registry, a Criminal History Record Request, and an Information Request for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles upon entering your field placement and upon obtaining employment in a state or local department of social services. A history of founded CPS complaints, criminal convictions or poor driving record may be a barrier to field placement and employment in Virginia’s state or local departments of social services; and thus, may make you ineligible to receive the award if you are not accepted for a placement by a local department of social services. If you have concerns about your eligibility, please email the program coordinator at email@example.com for more information. Failure to disclose this information or to report any change of status relative to conviction of a crime, any moving traffic violations, or a founded complaint of child abuse/neglect may result in dismissal from the Child Welfare Stipend Program and require your repayment of the financial award.
The following documents must be submitted by the application deadline to be considered. Your emailed submission of required documents will be acknowledged within 5 business days of submission.
Step 1: Review and Reflect
Please review and reflect on the following:
- "How the child welfare system works”;
- Listen to the podcast Casework: What It Really Takes; and
- Take some time to reflect on the strengths and goals that you have that would make you a good fit for this area of social work practice.
After you have reflected on the material above, please submit your responses to the following questions. Responses in total should be a maximum length of two pages. Responses will be evaluated on quality of substance and writing skills; be thorough yet concise.
- Why are you interested in working with families in the public child welfare system; specifically in prevention, foster care and/or adoption services?
- What experience have you had in public or private child welfare, as a volunteer, student or employee? How has that experience influenced you? If you do not have experience in child welfare, tell us more about what you understand to be the focus and importance of child welfare work.
- Describe your immediate career goals. How will a social work education with a focus in public child welfare help you obtain these goals?
- Working in public child welfare often means you are working in situations that will challenge you personally and professionally. Tell us about a time when you encountered a challenge where there was no way out but through. How did you work through that experience?
- The Commonwealth of Virginia is investing significant resources to prepare its future child welfare workforce. Tell us what strengths you will add to the child welfare workforce if chosen to participate in this program.
Step 3: Submit your Professional Reflection and Resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Please submit your current resume; include education, employment, volunteer and field/internship experience.
Each applicant must have at least two professional references complete and submit this form.
Both references must be from professionals who have worked with you; preferably one from someone who has supervised you in some capacity.
Step 5: Complete and submit the CWSP Application Form.
All application materials must be submitted by the application deadline in order for your application packet to be reviewed and considered.
About the program
It is a crucial time for social workers to specialize in child welfare practice as practitioners and researchers grapple with the history of child welfare and current implications for this area of practice. The existing child welfare workforce needs new colleagues to join them in the field who are critical thinkers, diligent workers, full of compassion and agents of change. Child welfare practitioners have been working with policy makers to shift the child welfare system toward prevention and to work toward better outcomes for youth currently in foster care; there is so much important work to do.
Are you interested in working in the child welfare system but not sure if public child welfare work is for you? Are you currently working in a local department of social services and considering coming back to school to advance your education and effectiveness in the field? We want to talk with you!
We want to work with students who have the energy and passion to get to work pursuing safety, wellbeing and permanent connections for children and their families. This program benefits students in multiple ways.
The CWSP at VCU provides the following training and support:
- Field placement experience within a local department of social services
- Required training through the Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center
- Child welfare-specific coursework
- Topical and skills workshops
- Support in the employment search process
- A supportive network of professionals, including current child welfare workers, community partners, cohort members and university coordinator
B.S.W. and M.S.W. students accepted into this program receive a $10,000 stipend per academic year.
In exchange for the stipend and child welfare training, the stipend recipient has a work payback requirement to work at a local department of social services within the Commonwealth of Virginia, in prevention, foster care or adoption, one calendar year for each academic year the stipend was received.
Resources for Child Welfare Practice and Research
Benefits to community partners
Our community partners also benefit from the CWSP at VCU by having the opportunity:
- To train social work students during their field practicums
- To hire graduates with practice experience in a local department of social services (LDSS) and other child-serving settings
- To hire graduates who have completed some of the required Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center training prior to beginning their employment in an LDSS
- To support their employees and enhance retention of their workforce by providing the opportunity for staff to continue their professional development by returning to VCU to complete their M.S.W.