The University of Southern Mississippi will lead an institute that
will use more than $2.5 million in grant funding to improve the
quality of Mississippi’s child welfare services.
The Title IV-E Child Welfare Training Institute
is charged with educating and training child welfare workers and
university students who plan to work in the field, as well as others
who serve at-risk children, such as foster parents and adoptive
parents, said Dr. Mike Forster, director of the Southern Miss School
of Social Work.
Funding for the institute, which is supported
by a consortium of state universities, comes from the Mississippi
Department of Human Services through a federal grant from the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
“This institute will help prepare qualified
social workers to go to work in the (state) department (of human
services) and train those already in the department,” Forster
said. “It’s a comprehensive vision for training all
of these people who are vital to the system.”
The institute will also boost the Southern
Miss School of Social Work’s curriculum by adding classes
focusing on child welfare issues. Institute funding also helps the
school acquire new staff members like Lori Woodruff, who worked
for 18 years in Child Protection Service for DHS prior to joining
the School of Social Work as its director of Child Welfare Services.
“This institute will bring together foster
parents, university personnel and social workers to promote positive
interaction and problem solving for the betterment of the children
receiving services,” Woodruff said. “You have to raise
skill levels to do a better job for the children.”
Students studying to be social workers at one
of the consortium schools can benefit by making a commitment to
work at least one year for the State Department of Human Services’
Child Welfare Division following graduation. In return, the student
would receive a generous package of tuition support, as well as
a stipend that would be paid while the student completed an internship
with a state human service agency.
Other universities in the consortium with Southern
Miss include social work programs at the University of Mississippi,
Mississippi State University (Starkville and Meridian campuses),
Delta State University, Jackson State University and Mississippi
Valley State University.
The goals of the institute are in line with
efforts in all other states to meet federal requirements to modify
or improve their child welfare service delivery system. “Mississippi
has many challenges (in delivering child welfare services), so partnering
with state agencies and universities is critical,” Forster
said. “In order to cover the entire state, the consortium
is a key element to reaching our goals.”
One of social work’s
primary missions - serving at-risk children – Forster said,
makes the partnership with the institute a natural fit. “This
institute will help strengthen that mission.”
For more information about the Southern Miss
School of Social Work and opportunities through its undergraduate
and graduate degree programs, call (601) 266-4163.