Child Welfare

MSW Certificate Application

Your path to launching an amazing social work career

children standing side by side

To keep children safe and well and to support families, we need social workers who have the knowledge and skills to work in the challenging field of child welfare.

You can make a difference in a child's life, help parents provide a safe and loving home, and address the trauma resulting from child maltreatment that may impact a child and family for a lifetime.

It is hard work---but rewarding! Child welfare requires resilient and dedicated professionals. It is complicated work--but never boring!

Child welfare includes family preservation services with families and communities to prevent child abuse and neglect, child protective services to assess and keep children safe, out-of-home placement with kin, in foster care and sometimes in residential treatment, services to reunite children with their parents, and permanency services, such as adoption. It requires clinical and case management skills, expert assessment and engagement skills, and a high commitment to social justice and respect for populations.

This certificate is endorsed and regulated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)--the agency charged with protecting Michigan's children. Child welfare certificate graduates will be given preference in hiring at MDHHS and private agencies across the state of Michigan (see list). Graduates may also waive a portion of new worker training. Certificate notation should be added to your resume.

Child welfare is a great career builder as it exposes a social worker to so many skills (including evidence-based practice), draws upon knowledge of family and community systems, explores the impact of policy, and connects a professional to so many other systems such as hospitals, schools, and the court system. Gaining experience in child welfare is a solid way to get social work experience, gain supervision that may count for licensure, and work in settings that often qualify for federal loan forgiveness. Opportunities for leadership and supervisory experience are often available in a timely manner. It is a field of practice that social work has been dedicated to since the beginning of our profession.

Gaining a child welfare certificate does not require the student to work in child welfare but hopefully, after gaining relevant coursework and field experience, the challenges and opportunities of working in child welfare will be clear and compelling! Child welfare is a great field to gain initial experience after graduation and to grow and develop a long-term career committed to serving children and families. It is a field that has a lot of flexibility and opportunity for changing positions within an agency with gained experience.

The MSW Child Welfare Certificate program encourages two tracks: (1) for Clinical students, a trauma focus is highly encouraged which requires the trauma course as one of your electives. (2) Organizational and Community Leadership students, as an MSW often can lead to a supervisory or middle management role, an elective in Supervision or Leadership is highly encouraged.

It may be possible, with little adjustment to your academic schedule, to earn a second certificate program in Trauma or Chance at Childhood in addition to the Child Welfare certificate program. You may also combine this certificate with the Advocacy Scholars program.

Certificate programs do not require additional expense for students; in addition, scholarships from the School of Social Work or agencies may be available to support your participation in the certificate program.


Child welfare agencies are looking for social work graduates with a relevant social work education! There are typically child welfare jobs across the state of Michigan in MDHHS and in private agencies available to MSW graduates. MDHHS positions are posted on the Michigan Civil Service Commission website ( or Public agency salaries begin in a range from $40,452 to $59,904, with excellent state benefits.

Private agency positions are often identified by the Michigan Federation for Children and Families (, see Job Postings, or the agencies themselves, or through the MSU School of Social Work job’s email list. Federal loan forgiveness programs require fulltime employment in a governmental or not-for-profit agency and many of these employment opportunities may qualify for such loan forgiveness programs, depending on the type of loan issued and other loan conditions.

MSW Program Components

The certificate is structured to make minimal demands on your academic planning and can fit with most students’ schedules without complications.

  1. There are three course requirements (minimum grade of 3.0):
    1. SW471, the Child Welfare elective
    2. SW822 Topics in Policy Practice and Advocacy: Child and Adolescent Policy. This is already a required course so it directs you to this specific section but does not add an additional requirement to your academic schedule
    3. An additional 2/3 credit hours course/elective that is relevant to the field of child welfare.
  2. One of your field placements needs to be in a child welfare agency for the equivalent of one academic year (typically, nine months/480 field work hours).
  3. Attend two workshops (from MSU Continuing Education, for example) or conferences with content relevant to the field of child welfare.

Additional Certificate Programs for MSW students

Because of their common approaches and families served, it may be possible to earn a certificate in Trauma or in Chance at Childhood (law and social work) in addition to the Child Welfare certificate. This would provide two certificates to add to your resume and to enhance your knowledge, skills and professional competency.

For the Evidence-Based Trauma Treatment program, the trauma course can be substituted for the child welfare elective; so that the coursework for the dual certificates would be SSW471 (the Child Welfare elective), the SW822 policy course (Child and Adolescent Policy Practice), and the Trauma course. One’s field placement would need to be in a child welfare agency that meets Trauma Certificate requirements, as well. This field requirement could be accomplished by one field placement in each certificate program if one’s course of study includes two field placements.

For the Chance at Childhood program (certificate in law and social work), the law and social work course could be substituted for a child welfare elective; so that the coursework would be SW471 (Child Welfare), SW822 policy course (Child and Adolescent Policy Practice), and the Law and Social Work course. One’s field placement would need to meet the requirements for both the Child Welfare certificate program and the Chance at Childhood program. This field requirement could be accomplished by one field placement in each certificate program if one’s course of study includes two field placements.

Advocacy Scholars

It is possible to be an Advocacy Scholar and earn a Child Welfare certificate. This would require that a student complete either the Child Welfare Policy or the Child and Adolescent Policy course options for SW822, the SW471 Child Welfare elective, and the SW 891 Advanced Advocacy Skills for Changing Systems elective. One’s field placement would need to meet requirements for both the Child Welfare certificate program and the Advocacy Scholars program. This field requirement could be accomplished by one field placement in each certificate program (first field placement: child welfare focused, second field placement: advocacy focused) if one’s course of study includes two field placements. The Advocacy Scholars program requires that a student’s Advanced Year field placement be in a policy practice/advocacy setting. This could be a child welfare placement, if available.

Field Education

Field education agencies include some of the most respected agencies in Michigan and are located in every one of Michigan's 83 counties. In addition to working at MDHHS in prevention services, licensing services, child protective services or foster care; one can work in a private agency and provide family preservation services, foster care, residential treatment, adoption, and licensing services. Private agencies in mid-Michigan include:

  • Bethany Christian Services (Lansing office)
  • Child and Family Charities of Mid-Michigan
  • Highfields
  • Samaritas (Lansing office)
  • St. Vincent Catholic Charities
  • Sunny Crest Youth Ranch
  • Wellspring Lutheran Services (Lansing office)

Other private agencies, outside of the tri-county mid-Michigan area, are members of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families ( and the Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies of Michigan (


There are a number of faculty members dedicated to child welfare due to their life experiences, work history, and research interests. We welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your academic preparation, the transition to employment, and a career in child welfare.

Gary Anderson
Gary Anderson, LMSW, PhD, Professor
Gary Anderson’s interest in child welfare began when his parents became licensed foster parents and his commitment solidified with one of the most challenging and important social work jobs as a Michigan Child Protective Service Worker. He has led federally-funded child welfare national centers and institutes and the national journal CHILD WELFARE; and his research interests now focus on building a positive child welfare culture in agencies and social work programs.
Kimberly Battjes
Kimberly Battjes, LMSW, Senior Clinical Instructor
Kimberly Battjes' interest in child welfare began with her first social work position as an in-home counselor. She worked as a Families First worker for several years in Detroit, Washtenaw, and Livingston Counties. Upon earning her MSW, she worked as a School Social Worker for sixteen years. She currently holds the position as Coordinator at MSU’s Chance at Childhood, teaching interns about child welfare and the law.
Kelley Blanck
Kelley Blanck, LMSW, Instructor
Kelley Blanck’s interest in child welfare began with her first post-graduate position at a private foster/adopt care agency in Detroit as a Post-Adoption Clinician and Supervisor. Her practice and interests include systems of care and trauma training and intervention with a particular focus on foster/adopt youth and foster/adopt families.
Stephene Diepstra
Stephene Diepstra, LMSW, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor
Stephene Diepstra's passion and interest in child welfare stem from growing up with foster and adopted siblings and being a foster and an adoptive parent herself. She currently practices as a school social worker and has researched in the areas of child welfare, foster care, and adoption.
Rosemary Jackson
Rosemary Jackson, LMSW, ACSW, Clinical Instructor
Rosemary Jackson has a long history with child welfare in the state of Michigan, beginning with placing children from the child welfare system into adoptive families and going on to establish and supervise a foster care unit placing older youth. She was also involved in the design and implementation of two of the Post Adoption Resource Centers in the state and currently teaches child welfare at Michigan State University.
Sacha Klein
Sacha Klein, MSW, PhD, Associate Professor
Sacha Klein has twenty-five years of child welfare experience that includes working as a child protective services worker, foster care and adoption case worker, and family preservation case manager in Pennsylvania and California. She also served as the Child Welfare Policy Director for an association of 80 nonprofit agencies in Los Angeles County, as the Policy Director for First 5 LA, and as a Society for Research in Child Development Policy Fellow in Washington DC where she worked with the Office of Child Abuse Prevention and the research and evaluation arm of the Administration for Children and Families. Her practice and research interests include child maltreatment prevention and early intervention, child welfare policy, and neighborhood effects on parenting.
Joe Kozakiewicz
Joe Kozakiewicz, LMSW, JD, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Chance at Childhood Program
Joe Kozakiewicz's interest in child welfare began when he sought an avenue to practice law as a "helping profession" and volunteered for a non-profit agency representing children in the court system. Joe's practice and research interests include children's legal issues, abuse and neglect, and interdisciplinary law and social work practice.
Nicki Moody
Nicki Moody, LMSW, Clinical Instructor
Nicki Moody’s first social work job was providing child welfare services to undocumented and unaccompanied foreign national minors. This unique blend led to deepened interests in child welfare and international populations. Nicki continues to partner with state agencies to serve all child welfare needs through field education placements.
Keunhye Park
Keunhye Park, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor
Keunhye Park’s primary fields of interest are child welfare services and policy, juvenile justice services and policy, education experiences for marginalized youth, and the transition to adulthood among foster youth. She has several years of practice experience in community work, child education, and program development at a detention center; as well as research experience in child welfare and juvenile justice, having worked with government agencies and juvenile justice facilities in Michigan and Illinois.
Delanie Pope
Delanie Pope, JD, Clinical Assistant Professor and Chance at Childhood Staff Attorney
Delanie Pope’s interest in child welfare began as a Family Court Referee hearing cases on child abuse and neglect and custody matters. Her practice and advocacy interests include an interdisciplinary approach of law and social work to child welfare.
Joanne Riebschleger
Joanne Riebschleger, LMSW, ACSW, PhD, Associate Professor
Associate Professor Joanne Riebschleger has over two decades of practice experience with at risk children and families. She is particularly focused on rural child welfare practices, preventive interventions, and behavioral health treatments.
Anna Maria Santiago
Anna Maria Santiago, MA, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies
Anna Maria Santiago’s interests in child welfare began as a bilingual social worker at Catholic Social Services in Milwaukee where she worked with Latino children with special health needs as well as those who experienced exposure to violence in the home and community. Her practice and research interests focus on neighborhood and community effects on the physical and mental health and well-being of Latino and African American children and young adults in the United States and internationally.
Gretchen Sheneman
Gretchen Sheneman, MSW, Senior Clinical Instructor
Gretchen Sheneman’s interest in child welfare began when she became part of team of evaluators working to understand how to best prepare students and support professionals entering the child welfare workforce as part of the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute in 2009. She also evaluates child welfare professionals’ in-service training across the state for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Her practice and teaching interests include program evaluation and research, and she serves as the evaluator for the MSU School of Social Work Community Programs, supporting the FAME program (for former foster youth entering MSU) and the Kinship Care Resource Center.
Cheryl Williams-Hecksel
Cheryl Williams-Hecksel, LMSW, Senior Clinical Instructor
Cheryl Williams-Hecksel has 30 years of experience working in child welfare and mental health agencies, including private and public settings. Her professional interests include trauma, implementing evidence based practice, secondary trauma, supervision and the child welfare workforce. She is the Coordinator of the evidence-Based Trauma Treatment Certificate.

MSW Certificate Application