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UW-Eau Claire to Offer New
Social Work Program
MAILED: Jan. 7, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — A new curriculum for social workers whose clients live in rural and impoverished areas will be developed at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire thanks to $213,000 in federal funds that have been approved by Congress.
The funding - which was included as part of the fiscal year 2002 appropriations bill for the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education -- will fund core curriculum development for a program that provides training for social workers who work with adults who struggle with alcohol and other drugs, cognitive and developmental disorders, physical disabilities, mental illness and abuse or neglect.
"This is a benefit to social workers and ultimately to their clients," Pat Christopherson, interim associate dean of UW-Eau Claire's School of Human Sciences and Services, said of the program. "There are 12,000 certified social workers in Wisconsin, so there is a definite need to provide curriculum to meet their specific needs."
Most social workers are required to complete 30 hours of professional development every two years. However, currently there is no core curriculum for social workers whose client populations are primarily rural adults, Christopherson said.
The funding will support the Community-Based Services Training Partnership for Adults, a collaborative effort of faculty in the UW-Eau Claire social work department, UW-Eau Claire Continuing Education, two state regional representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, and 31 predominately rural human/social services departments in northern and western Wisconsin.
The partnership's mission is to develop cohesive, comprehensive core curriculum, Christopherson said, adding that the curriculum eventually will be made accessible nationwide to other interested social service delivery systems with similar adult caseloads.
The program will include the following phases of professional development:
48 hours of training over an eight-day period of core curriculum that will focus on tasks, knowledge, skills and values.
Additional training courses with an emphasis on specific service areas including alcohol and other drug abuse, mental health, developmental disabilities, supervision and administration, adult protective services and applied geriatric education.
UW-Eau Claire Continuing Education has been offering specialized social work training programs in the Hayward area, Eau Claire and Rhinelander for the past 18 months, Christopherson said. "But with this funding, we can move forward with development of the core curriculum for professionals who work with our aging population, particularly those in rural areas," she said.
Social workers who work with adults in rural Wisconsin face some unusual challenges, Christopherson said. "If a disabled adult in a rural county has a problem, such as a need for transportation or a specialized service, it's not the same problem as it would be in Madison or Milwaukee," she said.
"Social workers are looking for training that's practical, accessible and cost-effective," said Stacey Garlick, a long-term support supervisor for the Trempealeau Department of Social Services and a member of the Partnership's advisory committee.
"This is the first of its kind - it's cutting edge and quite amazing," Garlick, a 1982 UW-Eau Claire social work graduate, said of the curriculum, noting that input from social workers and county human service agency representatives from nearly all of the 31 participating counties went into determining the training needs.
"Our population is aging and the number of adults with disabilities is increasing," Garlick said. "This training will give us the tools we need to improve our skills so that we can assist these people in getting the care they need."
"Social work is not a one-size-fits-all profession," said Sen. Herb Kohl, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee who identified the project as a priority for funding. "It's very important that social workers are trained to work with different populations that may face different problems."
President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law this month. In the meantime, UW-Eau Claire will continue to offer training programs for social workers and move forward with the process of expanding the curriculum, Christopherson said.
"We appreciate Sen. Kohl's support of this important program," Christopherson said. "This training not only provides the tools social workers need to improve their skills, it validates the long hard work these professionals put into working with a population that is often forgotten by their families, their local communities and society in general."
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Jan. 7, 2002