Arizona children in need of protection will be having a lot more contact with Northern Arizona University graduates in coming years.
NAU is receiving a $5 million state grant to funnel up to 100 social work students into Child Protective Services as caseworkers upon graduation.
“We are going to provide tuition reimbursement for child protective services workers, so people who are looking to be CPS workers will be able to have us pay for the tuition if they will then come to work for us for awhile,” said Arizona Department of Economic Security director Clarence Carter.
Under a deal inked just last week, DES will provide the university with $5 million in Social Security funds that have been set aside to pay for educating and training the child welfare workforce.
The five-year deal will provide 20 junior and senior bachelor’s of social work students a year with a full ride to NAU. Each student will be able to attend school tuition-free for up to two years under the deal. In exchange, the students will have to sign contracts promising to work for DES in Child Protective Services for one to two years after they graduate.
“We are really pleased to be able to partner with DES to support students, to improve the workforce and, in the end, to be able to impact families in a really positive way,” said Natalie Cawood, social work program coordinator for NAU’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
DES will get up to 100 new CPS workers out of its partnership with NAU’s social work program over the next five years. Cawood spent roughly two years laying the groundwork for the partnership. The social work field is expected to grow by more than 25 percent by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Cawood said CPS workers are in high demand across the country.
“There is a need for highly trained employees in the child welfare system,” Cawood said.
The partnership will create a new CPS degree track for a small number of NAU’s roughly 200 bachelor’s of social work students. NAU will use DES funds to hire three staff members to oversee the money, as well as a program manager and a program coordinator.
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