National Child Welfare Workforce Institute

The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Children’s Bureau of the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. Its purpose is to build the capacity of the nation’s child welfare workforce and improve outcomes for children, youth, and families through activities that support the development of skilled child welfare leaders in public and tribal child welfare systems, and in private agencies that are contracted by the States to provide case management services that are traditionally provided by the public child welfare system.


As part of its scope, NCWWI is implementing BSW and MSW traineeship programs in partnership with 12 universities. MSU School of Social Work is responsible for coordinating and overseeing these traineeship programs. The Children’s Bureau also awarded supplemental funding to the NCWWI to support its ongoing American Indian traineeship programs for BSW and MSW students. This funding has allowed the NCWWI to hire MSU Social Work Associate Professor Suzanne Cross, PhD, LMSW, to provide leadership and ensure additional programmatic and administrative assistance to the traineeship programs to enhance recruitment, support, and retention of American Indian students. Dr. Cross is a Saginaw Chippewa tribal member, elder, and artisan.


American Indian students face challenges that most traditional college students do not. They are frequently the first in their families to enroll in higher education programs and must travel great distances to attend school, leaving them isolated from their tribes and families. They experience considerable financial hardship, and many are managing other responsibilities such as parenting, grandparenting, and other caretaking.

Dr. Cross has met with principal investigators of the traineeship programs, as well as provided presentations and webinars on topics such as best practices in recruitment and retention of American Indian social work students, American Indian cultural behaviors as they differ from mainstream American culture, and profiles of successful American Indian social workers. She has also developed manuscripts and reports on topics of recruitment, retention, job readiness, and collaboration with American Indian and non-tribal communities.


Dr. Cross involved three MSU students in the project: Lucas Gogliotti and Justin Pung were BASW seniors, and Rose Petoskey was a senior in political science doing her American Indian Studies internship under Dr. Cross’s direction. The students conducted a literature review on the topic of recruitment and retention of American Indian students, collected and assessed relevant classroom materials, professional journal articles, books, films, and American Indian course syllabi relevant to issues that may be taught in social work courses. Petoskey also focused on a literature review for “entry to work” information.

National Child Welfare Workforce Institute Partners

The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute partners include social work programs from nine universities:

  • Michigan State University
  • University of Albany–SUNY
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Denver
  • University of Southern Maine
  • University of Michigan
  • Fordham University
  • Portland State University
  • University of Maryland


and the National Indian Child Welfare Association

More information about the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute can be found here.