Children, Youth and Families

Larry Palinkas, Chair
Department Overview

Children, Youth and Families prepares students to improve the lives and well-being of children, youth and their families. Students in this department are prepared to support children, adolescents and transitional age youth within agencies, institutions, communities, families and other social and organizational contexts.

This department is for students who want to become licensed clinical social workers helping children, adolescents and transitional age youth with issues pertaining to social welfare, safety, early childhood education, childhood development, juvenile justice and mental health, among other areas.

Whether you are interested in helping victims of abuse, children in foster care, or children in school settings, this department will train you in new, evidence-based approaches that will prepare you to support the welfare and development of children and implement effective intervention strategies when needed.

Skill Development

The department’s course work, tracks and hands-on field education training, equip students with a variety of skills, including:

Julia De Almeida, MSW’17
Student Experience
  • Problem Identification in Early Childhood Development
  • Client Assessment
  • Clinical Interventions
  • Treatment Planning
  • Documentation, Case Management & Resource Coordination
  • Service Delivery Models & Policies
  • Ethical Decision Making
  • Data Collection & Research
  • Outcome Evaluation
  • Policies, Theories & Principles for Social Work Practice in Schools
  • Navigating Juvenile Justice Systems
  • Responses to Special Challenges in Public Child Welfare
Sample Courses
Social Work Practice With Children And Families In Early and Middle Childhood
Social Work In Early Care and Education Settings
Social Work In Juvenile Justice Settings
Mental Health Practice With Children and Adolescents

Work Settings and Fields

The social work field is expected to grow by more than 700,000 from 2012-2021, a 19% growth rate that is faster than the average for all occupations.

Many Children, Youth and Families students pursue licensure after they graduate. Some students become child protective services case workers, school guidance counselors, foster care therapists, adoption specialists, family counselors, child and family therapists or correctional probation officers. Sample work settings include:

  • Adoption Agencies
  • Community-based Organization
  • 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
  • School Settings


Coursework focuses on prevention and early intervention, promoting and sustaining the health of children and youth across diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. View the Curriculum Snapshot.


Students in the Children, Youth & Families department can customize their education experience by pursuing a track in school social work and military social work. Tracks are not required to complete the MSW program. View the Tracks Curriculum.

Military Social Work Track
School Social Work Track

Field Experience

Working in the field with one of our many community partners gives students valuable real-world, hands-on experience that complements and enhances their classroom education. Students complete 1,000 hours of hands-on training, which amounts to 14-20 hours per week. Sample field locations include:

  • School Settings
  • Social Service Agencies
  • Public Child Welfare Agencies
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Government Agencies
  • Community Organizations

Read more about our field placement requirements and opportunities.

Faculty Research

Department faculty members are engaged in a wide variety of research that informs our curriculum and policy. Many are affiliated with one or more of the school’s research centers and research clusters. Sample research 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