University News

Social Work Program Joins DCFS/University Partnership

February 1, 2021

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MACOMB, IL - - The Western Illinois University Social Work program has joined the University Partnerships Program, a partnership between the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Illinois universities.

The program is designed to equip and develop the DCFS's future workforce by providing an opportunity for students to gain more knowledge about the department and learn how they can positively impact the lives of Illinois children and families through a career with DCFS.

Social workers who are answering the call to intervene with children and families involved in the Illinois child welfare system must first complete foundation training and pass professional employment exams. Through the partnership students will learn knowledge, skills and values for working with children and families, and will complete a significant portion of the requirements for the CWEL (Child Welfare Employee License) in order to more quickly be eligible to be hired by DCFS or other organizations providing direct child welfare services.

"This is an exciting benefit to our students who plan to work in child welfare," said Karen Zellmann, Bachelor of Social Work program coordinator. "Successfully completing the classes will provide students a strong foundation for working with children and families and will be an advantage when applying for employment after graduation."

The course will also benefit students who do not plan to work directly in child welfare. Workers in all fields, including school social work, medical settings, chemical dependency, mental health and victim services will encounter situations in which a working knowledge of child welfare will be valuable.

As a part of the partnership, the WIU Social Work program is offering two new courses, SW 341 Social Work in Child Welfare I and SW 342 Social Work in Child Welfare II. In these courses, students will receive the foundation training and take the professional employment exams to prepare them for a child welfare position as a caseworker within the Placement/Permanency (Foster Care) specialty. WIU Professor Kaycee Peterman, MSW, LCSW, will teach the new courses.

In addition to completing the Social Work in Child Welfare courses, students can also apply to participate in the DCFS Shadowing Program and the Academic Internship Program. The Shadowing Program is a unique two-day experience that pairs eligible college students who would like to learn more about the department with DCFS staff working in the student's area of interest. The Academic Internship Program, which offers internships statewide, provides practicum students with experiences and learning opportunities within the child welfare system. Under the supervision of experienced DCFS staff, practicum students will participate in activities and duties, which will provide a great learning experience.

For more information on WIU's Bachelor of Social Work, visit

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