Children, Youth and Families

The Department of Children, Youth and Families is focused on addressing the needs of vulnerable children, youth and families, while building strong social environments to support them.

Students in this department will study subject areas such as:

  • Child welfare
  • Adolescents and transition age youth
  • Child development and early childhood education
  • Juvenile justice
  • Mental health
  • School social work

Our students develop the skills and experience needed to help families cope with psychological and social issues at home, school or in the community. Explore the type of work settings and careers for Children, Youth and Families students. Or review our department infographic or video.


Coursework focuses on prevention and early intervention, promoting and sustaining healthy children and youth and the social environments in which they live, as well as on service programs showing the best results for families with diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

In line with recent science and research, the curriculum also includes a focus on the implications of new findings in neuroscience that apply to the social work practice.

Course requirements include seven core classes plus three electives. Three semesters of field and integrative seminars are required. A snapshot of the curriculum details the recommended order of classes by semester.

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608 Research and Critical Analysis for Social Work with Children and Families
This course deepens students’ foundational knowledge of research methods to improve analytical skills and increase their ability to effectively utilize various forms of data to inform their practice. Assignments related to problem identification, intervention and evaluation of client outcomes will be tied to the field placement. The course recognizes the broad range of issues involving children, youth and families, while at the same time allowing students flexibility in choosing specific areas of interest and service systems to focus their learning.


609 Introduction to Social Work Practice with Children, Youth and Families


This course helps students understand the development of the child within the family and the role the larger social environment has on that development, highlighted by current research that informs these theories. It highlights risk and protective factors and common problems that can occur during each stage. The course also presents ways to engage with children and families in a developmentally appropriate way; what research has shown to be effective interventions at the micro, macro and mezzo levels; and interventions that have support for their effectiveness.


610 Social Work Practice with Children and Families Across Settings


Students explore various settings where children and families commonly receive social work services in order to understand the objectives and organization of key settings, such as early education, schools, mental health clinics, child welfare and juvenile justice agencies. The course also examines the roles of social workers and common methods of working with children and families in various settings. Upon completion, students will have knowledge about working in multiple children and family service settings, as well as how to assist families in navigating multiple service sectors.


613 Social Work Practice with Children and Families in Early and Middle Childhood


This advanced practice course teaches students about the causal factors that contribute to the development of problems among children and families in early childhood, and offers guidance on how to conduct a thorough assessment, develop a treatment plan, choose an appropriate intervention, deliver that intervention and evaluate its effectiveness within an ecological perspective. It also highlights the skills for making cultural adaptations.


621 Social Work Practice with Adolescents, Young Adults and Their Families


This advanced practice course addresses the developmental assets and specific challenges adolescents and their families may encounter as they navigate the years between childhood and adulthood. Students learn the role of the individual, the family, the school, community and cultural contexts in the development of problems and solutions for adolescents and young adults. Students advance their skills in engaging, assessing, intervening and evaluating clients using several evidence-based interventions, as well as develop skills in monitoring treatment progress and evaluating the need for adjustments and modification of treatment to ensure successful results.


627 Policy and Macro Practice in Children, Youth and Family Services


This course offers preparation for macro practice in organizations, systems and initiatives designed to support and serve children, youth, families and communities. Students learn about data-driven decision-making, collective impact and disruptive innovation. They examine policy trends including integrated, collaborative and networked approaches to service delivery; investments in community capacity building; and experiments with collective efficacy and social enterprise funding. Students examine models of community change, place-based partnerships to enhance resident engagement in community building and organizational models that integrate services for vulnerable families and their children.


611 Leadership in the Social Work Profession and Organizations: Theory and Practice


Description to be posted


Students may further customize their study by selecting one of the following options, which requires the completion of two additional courses.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health 
677 Mental health practice with children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbance one of the following:
602 Advanced theories and practice with families
620 Social work practice with transition age youth
​Juvenile Justice 
624 Social work in juvenile justice settings one of the following:
602 Advanced theories and practice with families
620 Social work practice with transition age youth
677 Mental health practice with children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbance
Military Social Work 
Many veterans suffer serious mental health disorders ranging from post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, which can lead to substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and suicide. Military spouses and children can also experience traumatic stress during deployments and reunions. The military social work curriculum prepares graduates to treat combat-related mental health issues, better understand military culture and improve the overall health and well-being of veterans, their families and communities.
640 Clinical Practice with the Military Family
641 Clinical Practice with Service Members and Veterans
Public Child Welfare 
Students gain a broader understanding of the practice methods and continuum of services that protect children and preserve families. Coursework builds on individual and family strengths, preventing and alleviating the consequences of child abuse and neglect, and promoting the safety, permanence and well-being of children who have suffered, or are at risk of, child maltreatment. Students must complete a field internship in a public child welfare agency, and they may also apply for a stipend from the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) or the University Consortium for Children and Families (UCCF).

619 Social Work Practice in Public Child Welfare
Choose one of several approved electives including:
620 Social Work Practice with Transition Age Youth
677 Mental Health Practice with Seriously Emotionally Disturbed Children and Youth
XXX Social Work in Juvenile Justice Settings

School Social Work 
School social workers address concerns about a child's adjustment in school and assist students, parents and school administration with problems that hinder academic success. Students who intend to provide social work and child welfare services in a California public school are eligible for the Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential, upon the completion of required courses and a field internship in a public school setting.
614 Social Work Practice in School Settings
688 School Violence

Field Education

Working in the field with one of our many community partners gives students valuable hands-on practice experience that complements classroom learning. Read more about our field placement requirements and opportunities.

Faculty Research

Faculty members are engaged in pioneering research in a number of areas involving child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice, early education, and primary care settings. Projects include:

  • Causes, consequences, treatment and prevention of child maltreatment and adolescent substance abuse
  • Innovative uses of social media for HIV prevention in homeless youth
  • Promotion of positive social and academic climates in military-impacted school districts
  • School-based resilience-building interventions for trauma-exposed children
  • Training in behavioral health services targeted for transition-age youths
  • Treatment of depression among mothers in Head Start to improve parenting and child outcomes
  • Evidence-based interventions for treating child mental health problems

Work Settings 

Under this department, you will work with children, teens, young adults and families. Types of workplace environments for internships and careers include:

  • Adoption agencies
  • Community-based organizations
  • Diversion, day treatment and re-entry services for delinquent youth
  • Foster care services
  • Health and mental health clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Juvenile courts
  • Nonprofit agencies providing prevention, early intervention and positive youth development services
  • Public child welfare agencies
  • Residential care facilities
  • Schools


In addition to clinical positions, graduates of our Children, Youth & Families department are often called on to help design new programs, analyze program data, and determine impacts and solutions. A sample of job titles includes:

  • Child protective services supervisor
  • School guidance counselor
  • Foster care therapist
  • Adoption specialist
  • Family counseling service manager
  • Correctional probation officer
  • Child and family therapist
  • Crisis intervention specialist