University of Vermont

Each program in the Department of Social Work assists students on their professional journeys to serve the needs of young people, families, and communities.

The Child Welfare Professional Education Project at UVM

      The Child Welfare Professional Education Project



Child Welfare Traineeships                                    

Each academic year, UVMís Department of Social Work offers between 5 and 10 child welfare traineeships to social work students currently enrolled in the BSW or MSW program at the University of Vermont. The traineeships provide significant financial support for social work education to students who have a strong commitment to child welfare practice. In exchange for this support, the students agree to focus their studies on practice in child welfare and commit to employment as a social worker within Vermontís Department for Children and Families (DCF) following graduation. This project supports professional excellence in public child welfare social work practice with vulnerable children and their families.

The project provides traineeships and support to students who are current employees of DCF and to those who are not employees.

BSW students about to enter their junior year and MSW students who are newly admitted to the MSW program are encouraged to apply for consideration. Financial support is generally offered over two academic years. However, some years the project may also have one year traineeships available. Students who expect to complete their studies within one academic year may also submit an application for consideration. o have one year traineeships available.  Students who expect to complete their studies within one academic year may also submit an application for consideration.


History and Background of the Project  

The Child Welfare Professional Education Project was created in 1993, through a partnership between the Department of Social Work at the University of Vermont (UVM) and the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) to provide social work education and training to child welfare social workers. One of several projects sponsored by the partnership, the Professional Education Project provides current and future public child welfare employees the opportunity to acquire a professional social work degree. Funding for this project is provided through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, the State of Vermont, and the University of Vermont.  

The overall aim of this and other child welfare education projects throughout the United States is to improve the quality of child welfare services nationally by providing professional education in social work to public child welfare employees. Research has shown that child welfare social workers with BSW or MSW degrees are better prepared for practice (Dhooper, Royce, & Wolfe, 1990), are more effective in practice than workers with undergraduate or graduate degrees in disciplines other than social work (Olsen & Holmes, 1982), and are more effective with effective permanency planning for children who’ve been in foster care for more than two years.  Further, research has shown that workers with a professional social work degree are more likely to stay in child welfare practice (CWLA, 1990; Russell, 1987).  

During its first year, the traineeship opportunity was primarily offered to current Vermont state employees in the division formerly known as Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) and presently known as the Family Services Division of DCF. The project’s early trainees pursued education towards the MSW degree at UVM and received tuition support and a stipend while in school. The traineeship project evolved to provide an option for state employees to receive their full salary and benefits, as well as tuition support, while attending school full time. The project later expanded its traineeships to students who agree to become Family Services social workers after completing either the MSW or BSW program. Future employees receive full tuition and a stipend while enrolled at the university. In the fall of 2007, the project expanded its scope once again by opening up this opportunity to state employees who work as Reach-up case managers in the DCF’s Economic Services Division, since these employees also serve IVE eligible children.    

The traineeship helps to support the overall mission, vision and goals of Vermontís plan to transform services for children and families. To learn about this plan and the current direction of public child welfare practice in Vermont, go t:o  

As of fall 2014, the trainee project at UVM has supported 173 student trainees, 57 of whom entered their studies as a current state employee. Today, itís estimated that almost one third of all FSD social workers have earned a social work degree through the project. Further, a number of the projectís graduates serve in supervisory or leadership roles in the agency.


Child Welfare League of America.  (1990). Florida recruitment and retention study.  Washington, DC: CWLA.

Dhooper, S.S., Royse, D.D., & Wolfe, L.C. (1990).  Does social work education make a difference?  Social Work.  35(1): 57-61.

  Olsen, L. & Holmes, W.  (1982). Educating child welfare workers: The effects of professional training on service delivery.  Journal of Education for Social Work. 18(1), 94-102.

Russel, M. (1987). National study of child welfare job requirements. Portaln, ME: University of Southern Maine, National Resource Center for Management and Administration.    


Conditions and Requirements of the Traineeship:

Traineeships offer the following supports to full time BSW or MSW students over a maximum of two academic years:

  • 70% in state tuition for all foundation year courses and 100% tuition for all concentration courses.
  • University fees
  • A cost of living stipend (currently $7750 per year) or in lieu of a stipend, some DCF employees are eligible to apply for part-time student status while continuing to work full-time in their current DCF position, or for educational leave with pay while they complete their degree.
  • Book reimbursement.   

Traineeship Academic Requirements:

As part of their course of study in either the BSW or MSW programs, trainees agree:  

  • To follow the typical course enrollment for the BSW or MSW program, and agree to focus their studies on social work in child welfare.
  • To enroll in specific electives relevant to social work in child welfare.
  • To undertake a field placement that is tailored toward professional practice in child welfare and/or work with children and families.
  • Students without prior DCF case worker experience in Family Services must complete a field practicum in a Family Services Division office under the supervision of a MSW level Field Instructor. (Note: FSD Field placements are located in several offices in the state. A placement in a specific location cannot be guaranteed.) MSW students complete this requirement in their concentration year, BSW students in their senior year.
  • BSW and MSW students who are current DCF caseworkers in Family Services complete their field education at other community agencies that serve children and families or may choose a placement in another division or in administration at DCF.

  Traineeship Employment Commitment:  

  • Trainees agree to work in child welfare for the State of Vermont for a minimum of 18 months for each year of support received.

  • Graduating student trainees without previous DCF experience are offered employment in district offices where there are positions open, thus may be required to accept employment in any part of the state in one of DCF’s 12 district offices.  Typically the positions offered are permanent full time social work positions, however part time and temporary positions can be offered.  

  • Trainees who enter the program as a DCF employee generally return to the positions held prior to entering school.

Traineeship Selection Criteria and Application Process:  

  • To be eligible for the traineeship, all candidates should be enrolled as a student in social work at UVM as either an MSW student or as a junior or senior BSW student for the coming academic year.  

  • All applicants should indicate their interest to either the Trainee Project Coordinator at UVM or the Human Resources Development Director at DCF in advance of application.
  • MSW student applicants without prior DCF experience should indicate interest in the traineeship on the appropriate section of the Graduate College application.
  • Current BSW students should notify the BSW Program Coordinator.
  • Initial interviews for information can be requested with the Trainee Project Coordinator or Human Resource Development Director.
  • The process to apply differs depending on the applicant’s current employment status at DCF.


Applications from individuals not currently employed by DCF:  

  • Applicants complete and submit a paper application which includes answers to essay questions, a copy of their resume, and names of three professional references to the Trainee Project Coordinator prior to April 1 for the following fall.
  • The Application can be found here
  • Applications for prospective employees are reviewed by a committee composed of DCF personnel and trainee project staff.   As part of the application process, the applicant gives permission for the committee to review her/his student records from either the BSW and MSW program or the MSW application process.  
  • Applicants are evaluated on the basis of their knowledge of and commitment to child welfare practice, past and present academic performance, and work experience, particularly in human services.  
  • For those applicants without prior work experience in child welfare practice, we strongly recommend that you shadow a DCF worker as part of the application process. The Trainee Coordinator can assist in making arrangements for this.  
  • Candidates who meet the basic requirements are interviewed by the selection committee late in the spring semester, and are notified of the committee’s decision within several weeks of the interviews.  

Applications from current DCF employees who are employed as Family Services Division caseworkers or in other approved casework positions:  

  • To be eligible, employees must have completed their 6 month probationary period.

  • To initiate an application, employees should contact the Human Resources Director at DCF to verify eligibility.

·     Employee applicants submit the following to the Human Resources Development Director by February 1:

      • Letter of application
      • Letter of support from their supervisor
      • Copy of their most recent employee performance evaluation  

Employee applications are reviewed and selected by state agency personnel typically during March and April for enrollment the following fall.


Resources for further information


Information on the Vermont Department for Children and Families and social work positions in the Family Services Division can be found at:

  Information for Current Trainees and DCF Field Instructors:

On-line Copy of Title IV-E VT Child Welfare Trainee Manual          

On-line resources:  

            Child Welfare League of America


            Child Welfare Information Gateway

            International Forum for Child Welfare

            UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

            UVM Libraries


  For More Information on the project and application process:  

George Leibowitz

Partnership Projects Director

442 Waterman Building

85 S. Prospect St.

Burlington, VT 05405

  Current state employees may also contact:

  Brenda Gooley

Policy and Operations Manager

Family Services Central Office






Last modified January 19 2016 02:56 PM

Contact UVM © 2016 The University of Vermont - Burlington, VT 05405 - (802) 656-3131