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Class Descriptions

Child Welfare System


Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Pathway Associations

Community Change
Interpersonal Practice
Mgmt & Leadership
Policy & Political
Program Evaluation
Older Adults
Children & FamiliesElective (Host)

Course Description

This course will focus on the evolution and development of child protection in the United States. The goal of the course is to provide students with an understanding of how state governments think about the adequacy/appropriateness of parenting, the safety of children, when and how child protection agencies get involved with families and what the evidence says about such involvement. We will discuss the origins and implementation of major child welfare policies and we will review practice innovations and some of the most pressing challenges facing child welfare systems today. A common theme throughout the course will be the intersection of child welfare and poverty, race, gender, identity and trauma. The course will cover policies and practices from both micro and macro perspectives and students will learn how child welfare systems collaborate (or at times fail to collaborate) with other allied systems of care (e.g. community mental health, juvenile justice, substance abuse).


● Understand how life events (risk and protective) contribute involvement with the child protection system
● Understand the evolution of child protection in the United States
● Understand the intersections of race, class and culture as it relates to parenting and child protection laws/practices
● Critically evaluate child welfare policies and practices
● Understand the current child welfare reform efforts
● Understand the relationship between child welfare and other allied systems of care (e.g. substance abuse, mental health, public aid)


This course will make use of lectures, guest lectures, discussion, media and small group exercises. Students will demonstrate their knowledge acquisition by means of class participation, weekly responses to assigned readings, written assignments and a class presentation focused on a specific child welfare issue. The class will also spend time interacting with service providers and observe dependency court hearings. .

Intensive Focus on Privilege, Oppression, Diversity and Social Justice (PODS)

This course integrates PODS content and skills with a special emphasis on the identification of theories, practice and/or policies that promote social justice, illuminate injustices and are consistent with scientific and professional knowledge. Through the use of a variety of instructional methods, this course will support students developing a vision of social justice, learn to recognize and reduce mechanisms that support oppression and injustice, work toward social justice processes, apply intersectionality and intercultural frameworks and strengthen critical consciousness, self-knowledge and self-awareness to facilitate PODS learning.

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