Specialization in Children & Youth Services

The Specialization in Children & Youth Services is available to students currently enrolled in the MSW program. Social work practice with children and youth is among the largest of the professional fields of social work. Children are an especially vulnerable population, and their well-being and protection are among the highest social priorities. Social workers are the main profession responsible for providing services in child welfare and mental health systems, and have major responsibilities for the care and well-being of children in schools, medical settings, family shelters, and other family service settings.

It is therefore incumbent upon institutions of higher education to provide specialized training in working with children and youth. Pressing contemporary problems of maltreatment and exploitation, bullying, trauma, and the life-long obstacles presented by poverty are some of the particular vulnerabilities children and youth face growing up in a rapidly changing and highly complex world.

The Specialization with Children and Youth provides students with the skills and knowledge to effectively respond to the needs of vulnerable children in direct practice, advocacy, and policy-making roles.


The Specialization in Social Work with Children and Youth requires students complete coursework in addition to an internship. The non-thesis option requires completion of nine (9) elective credit hours of graduate coursework that focuses primarily on practice with children and youth. For students electing to complete a thesis project, 6 elective thesis credits will be used for work directed toward the thesis, and 3 elective credits will be in coursework that focus primarily on practice with children and youth. All students completing the Specialization in Children and Youth will  complete second year field placements in agencies where at least 50% of services are dedicated to the needs of children and youth. The following courses qualify as electives for the MSW curriculum:

  • 7307 Direct Practice with Children and Adolescents
  • 7404 Social Work Practice in Schools 
  • 7415 Child/Family I
  • 7416 Child/Family II
  • 7801 Family Violence
  • 7807 Special Topics: Child Trauma
  • 7807 Special Topics: Ethical Dilemmas in Social Work Practice

Additional Notes

  • Students should note that earning a specialization does not guarantee the availability or attainment of a job in that field.
  • Faculty may, but are not required to, excuse students to participate in specialization activities. Students who are not excused from class to participate in a specialization activity must be provided with an equitable alternative activity.