Opportunities for Schools of Social Work:

  • Become More Trauma-Informed
  • Replicate the “Upstream Model”
  • Implement Advanced Social Work Practice Guidelines in Trauma

To address the shortage of social workers prepared to deliver culturally competent, evidence-based, trauma-informed services to children, adolescents, and their families the National Center is working with schools of social work across the country to enhance their capacity to offer trauma-informed curricula.

Implement the Core Concepts Curriculum
In 2007, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) Core Curriculum task force finalized its Concepts for Understanding Traumatic Stress Responses in Children and Families which served as the foundation for its Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma (CCCT). The National Center worked closely with the NCTSN to adapt the curriculum for social work education resulting in two Core Concepts courses: Core Concepts of Child and Adolescent Trauma (clinical practice); and  Core Concepts of Trauma‐Informed Child Welfare Practice (click each link to view a course description).

Core Concepts courses employ a problem-based learning approach used with five in-depth case studies that reflect trauma’s impact on children of every developmental age period. This approach allows students to experience client cases as they actually unfold in practice. Because the problem-based learning approach is new to many social work educators they are provided with training and peer support prior to teaching a course. (read more about support for Core Concepts faculty here). Schools interested in offering a Core Concepts course or making their curriculum more trauma-informed are invited to contact the National Center.

Click here for a map of locations where Core Concepts course has been or will be offered.

Replicate the “Upstream Model”
The “Upstream Model” is the National Center’s full educational model of trauma education being implemented by an increasing number of schools of social work (see the list of “partner schools” here). The model moves trauma education “upstream” from community agencies into social work curricula by connecting schools with community-based agencies, evidence-based trauma treatment (EBTT) developers, and national partners. The National Center is available to advise schools wishing to collaborate more closely with local community-based agencies that offer mental health services, or that want to replicate the full educational model. Read more about the “Upstream Model” here.

Interested in learning more about the Social Work Education program?

Implement Guidelines for Advanced Social Work Practice in Trauma
The National Center led a task force of forty schools of social work responsible for creating competency guidelines for advanced social work practice with traumatized children, adolescents, and their families. The guidelines were released by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in collaboration with the National Center in 2012.

Products and resources currently being developed to help schools implement the guidelines include:

(1) an electronic state-of-the-art bibliography;

(2) measures for assessing achievement of each practice behavior stated in the guidelines

(3) classroom aids and exercises;

(4) audio-visual and web-based resources;

(5) curriculum exemplars; and

(6) suggested assignments. These products will be finalized by January 2014 and National Center faculty will be available to provide schools with technical assistance in implementing the guidelines.

Future Curriculum Development
Working in collaboration with the NCTSN, the National Center is continuing to develop its Core Concepts curriculum. A priority is the development of a third Core Concepts course that promotes intervention and treatment planning. A military family case for the Core Concepts of Child and Adolescent Trauma course also is being developed and the National Center is working with schools to identify field placement agencies that serve military families. Other projects include adapting Core Concepts in Trauma-Informed Child Welfare Practice for BSW education, developing a neurobiology primer for the Core Concepts curriculum and developing an online version of both courses.

Why focus on social work education?  Social Work is the leading discipline serving traumatized children, adolescents and their families with BSW and MSW social workers comprising the vast majority of frontline staff in outpatient mental health agencies, residential centers, and child welfare programs; however many social workers lack basic knowledge about the developmental impacts of child trauma and practice experience with children.

Schools of social work clearly have a vital role to play in preparing social workers for trauma-informed, evidence-based work with children and families; therefore in 2009, the National Center distributed a survey to two hundred schools to learn more about their trauma curricula and field offerings. Results indicated that schools needed capacity building to be able to offer the latest child trauma knowledge and evidence-based training and practice opportunities.

Schools also needed help integrating problem-based learning methods, proven to be effective with adult learning and training (Wong, 2007), into their curricula. The survey results (read more here) helped the National Center clarify its mission of transforming social work trauma education by helping schools of social work infuse their programs with trauma-informed content and build their capacity to offer students evidence-based trauma training and practice opportunities.