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Herzing University

Jessica Dickenson

Selecting Your MSW Specialization: Children, Families, and Aging Services

What is your calling after graduation? Do you want to be an advocate for children, families, and aging adult clients in need of assistance?

What is your calling after graduation? Do you want to be an advocate for children, families, and aging adult clients in need of assistance?

You can build your understanding of social problems and their impact on individuals, families, and their communities by earning your Master of Social Work (MSW) and specialize in Children, Families, and Aging Services.

What’s Involved?

Child welfare is one of the oldest fields of social work specialization and practice, and it provides a critical service for some of our community’s most at risk individuals. National studies indicate that a social work degree is the most appropriate degree for those pursuing child welfare practice and has been linked with improved outcomes for children and families. Social workers who choose to work in child welfare have a wide array of career opportunities across a range of public, private, and community-based programs.

Not only do MSW professionals have the opportunity to work with children, but also their parents and/or extended family systems to promote safe and healthy relationships and connections. They ensure that families are functioning effectively in what can often be strenuous circumstances. These professionals most often work in government agencies, non-profits, school systems and residential facilities. The impactful nature of this specialty makes it a popular choice for MSW graduates, with more than one-third of new social workers commonly working with children and families.

MSW professionals will increasingly work and specialize in aging assessment, interventions and resource gathering for the growing population of older adults in the United States. The American Geriatrics Society projects that about 30% of Americans ages 65 and over will need complex medical, mental health and psychosocial supports by 2030. Older adults may have trauma, mental health, racial trauma, or addiction histories contributing to medical challenges such as diabetes, and high blood pressure and cognitive challenges such as Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia.  Social workers are advocates for these individuals in need.

How Does Herzing’s MSW Curriculum Prepare Future Social Workers?

The Children, Families, and Aging Services is a Specialization track within the MSW program that focuses on understanding social problems and their impact on individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations across the lifespan. MSW students are taught through a rigorous curriculum that includes classroom, virtual and simulated experiences to enhance distance learning as well as multidimensional clinical assessments.

The curriculum focuses on increasing the advanced skills that are necessary for social workers to work with clients of all ages.  Graduates will gain a strong understanding of human behavior, trauma, and diversity to better support their clients. Additionally, students will learn policies and laws related to specific age groups that they may work with.

Trauma-informed care is a major focus of this specialization. Many children involved with social work services and their families have experienced various levels of trauma. Trauma-focused services are important for social workers to understand the impact of public and private services like foster care, juvenile justice, school social work, etc. and their impact on clients of all ages.

Students will complete a 500-hour specialized field practicum in an agency focused on children, families, or aging services. Courses in this specialization are described below along with the rationale for their inclusion and sequence.  

How Does the Curriculum Target Each Unique Subset? 

To accurately cover all the different age groups, the different ages are broken up into three separate course areas. While there is overlap in some subject areas, there are some topics that are specific to each group.

Children

The first course in this specialization explores child welfare services, interventions, and programs that protect children and families. Topics include foster care, permanency planning, adoption policies and laws, mandated reporting, and abuse prevention. This course also covers school social work, juvenile justice, and family court systems. Emphasis on the role of risk and protective factors related to working with children and adolescents is a focus for working in this specialization area.  

Families

The second course focuses on social work practice involving families in a variety of settings. The course covers important topics to prepare clinical social workers to help clients including such things as divorce, mediation, substance use, family violence, homelessness, and relationship problems. Students will learn best practices and will examine the efficacy of family therapy models and interventions. Students will apply trauma-informed theories across the lifespan as this specialization prepares students to work with children, families, and aging services.

Gerontology

The final course in this specialization is the gerontology services and intervention course. This expands upon the knowledge, values, and skills learned in the human behavior courses with a unique focus on the biopsychosocial aspects of aging. Emphasis is placed on common themes at this stage of life, including changing family roles, experiencing, and managing grief and loss, safety, elder abuse, and best practices for healthy aging. Additional topics covered include Medicare, Medicaid, end-of-life policies, advanced directives, power of attorney, nursing home equity, home health access, hospice, Social Security, and disability insurance as they relate to desired clinical outcomes for clients.

By earning a degree in social work, you are not only able to work with children and families, but assist them at all points in their life and leave a lasting, positive impact on countless people across your community.

What Can You Do with an MSW in Children, Families, and Aging Services?

While the field of social work has evolved to become more diverse and specialized, core master’s degree courses prepare you for a wide variety of job possibilities. Careers* in this area could include, but are not limited to:

  • Child advocates
  • Community crisis responders
  • Domestic violence social workers
  • Family therapists
  • Geriatric social workers
  • School social workers
  • Nursing home social services 
  • Hospice Social Worker
  • Juvenile Case Manager

Are you still unsure what specialization to select? The Herzing admissions team can help you determine what career path is right for you based on your personality and desired goals. We look forward to helping you become a skilled social worker ready to provide services to clients across the lifespan and in a variety of settings throughout your community.

*Individuals considering the Master of Social Work program should be aware that state certification/ licensure requirements and eligibility to apply for certification/licensure vary from state to state. While certification/licensure is not a requirement for certain types of jobs, in some states, it may be required for any positions titled ‘Social Worker’ and to refer to yourself as a Social Worker in professional settings.

Learn More About Our MSW Program

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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