The School of Social Work (SSW) reviews criminal history information for all admitted students. Under Washington State Child and Adult Abuse Information Act, RCW 43.43.830-845, certain individuals with unsupervised access to certain vulnerable populations must be screened for specific information about convictions for crimes against persons or relating to financial exploitation, and/or findings in other formal proceedings related to these crimes. SSW degree programs involve access to populations defined by this law. 

SSW does not consider an applicant's criminal history when making an initial admission decision. The MSW/BASW applications for admission do not ask the applicant to disclose prior convictions. By law, the University of Washington will not automatically or unreasonably deny an applicant's admission or restrict access to campus residency based on an applicant's criminal history.  Therefore, we strongly encourage all interested prospects to apply to our programs.

Applicants who are offered admission will be required to complete a background check through Castlebranch as well as complete a Request for Criminal History Information Form as a condition for enrollment. A conviction/criminal history does not necessarily disqualify an individual for admissions to, or continuation in, the SSW. The SSW will conduct a review of all criminal history information on an individual case-by-case basis; this helps the SSW evaluate and advise students on their ability to successfully complete all program requirements for degree completion. However, a failure to disclose information is likely to result in withdrawal of an offer of admission to, or dismissal from, the SSW. Once enrolled, students must report any new information regarding convictions immediately in accordance with the professional and ethical guidelines set forth by the SSW.

The SSW values the lived experience of our community members. Our students, staff and faculty bring diverse backgrounds and identities to the SSW that serve as a catalyst to pursue social work. We understand that a criminal history can be a strength -- and can serve as motivation to help others facing similar experiences and to advocate for system change.  Applicants with a criminal history and/or history of other disciplinary actions are encouraged to consider a social work degree. However, individuals with criminal history pertaining to vulnerable populations may face limitations specifically around field practicum, a core requirement of every social work degree in the U.S. and elsewhere. 

If you have a criminal history, the following information about the field practicum requirement in social work may be helpful.

Field Education

All students pursuing a social work degree are required to complete a field practicum with an approved agency as part of their degree requirements. Some agencies may require a criminal background check and/or drug screen to determine whether students are qualified or allowed to be placed in that particular agency.  These policies are set by the agency, not by the SSW. Therefore, it is possible that some agencies may not accept students who have certain criminal histories or a positive drug screen. These policies typically apply to both practicum students and employees of these sites. The policies are intended to protect individuals served by or interacting with the agency as clients, constituents, stakeholders and who may also be members of vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, those with behavioral health challenges, developmental disabilities, or other situations/conditions.  

As a result, some students may not be able to pursue their preferred or expected field practicum due to individual agency policies regarding students’ criminal history or other criteria. While the SSW will make every reasonable effort to assist students in securing an appropriate field placement, if students are unable to complete the required practicum, they will also be unable to satisfactorily complete their degree requirements to graduate. In these cases, students are also not eligible for refund of tuition and other fees. 

Prospective applicants/students with questions or concerns about the School’s criminal history requirements should contact Jennifer Maglalang, Director of Admissions at jennmag@uw.edu or Rachel Wrenn, Assistant Dean for Field Education at wrennr@uw.edu