August 20, 2021

Updated Oct. 28, 2021—The Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) and the University of Washington recently renewed a historic agreement that created the Alliance for Child Welfare Excellence a decade ago. An innovative partnership led by the UW School of Social Work, the Alliance encompasses all three Master of Social Work (MSW) programs at public universities in the state—UW Seattle, UW Tacoma and Eastern Washington University—as well as Partners for Our Children (P4C), a child welfare–focused research and policy center at UW Seattle.

The Alliance encompasses the Child Welfare Training and Advancement Program, which provides educational grants, specialized courses and field education placements for MSW students who commit to working in the child welfare system upon graduation, as well as introductory and advanced training programs for all DCYF staff and caregivers for adopted children and children in foster care. The new agreement extends the Alliance for eight years, with the potential for further extension, and will bring an estimated $80 million in funding for education and training to Washington state over the coming eight years. 

The Alliance partnership was first created in 2012 to better capitalize on the expertise of public universities to offer consistent, high-quality education and training for the state’s child welfare workforce. The Alliance draws on public university expertise to offer cutting-edge content and effective training approaches as well as the analytic capacity to assess training effectiveness and impact. For example, the Alliance partners with the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) to offer online training to caregivers. Each I-LABS module explores a particular topic in child development, such as infant brain development and language acquisition.

Over the past decade, the Alliance has expanded and improved training opportunities, substantially increased funding for child welfare training, and strengthened coordination between participating schools and DCYF. 

The new agreement, signed in July by the UW president, the dean of the UW School of Social Work and the secretary of DCYF, expands the Alliance’s focus to include an emphasis on prevention training and strategies, developing collaborative ties with tribes and tribal entities in Washington state, and expanding critically needed child welfare–related training for DCYF's early learning staff, juvenile rehabilitation staff, judges and court officers, private providers, law enforcement and lawyers. 

“This important new agreement opens the door to broader, more integrated community-based education and training activities,” says Eddie Uehara, dean of the UW School of Social Work. “It is the result of concerted efforts and visionary leadership on the part of many, including Christina Coad, executive director of the Alliance; Emiko Tajima, executive director of P4C; and Ben de Haan, the School’s associate dean for social service innovation and partnerships."

The Alliance currently offers more than 200 training courses and customized coaching sessions to social service specialists, child welfare administrators and state-supported caregivers who play a crucial role in the lives of children in care. Course topics range from domestic violence to eating disorders, infant safety, cross-cultural communication, parent mental health and suicide prevention. More than 13,000 social workers, caregivers and community partners have completed Alliance courses to date. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alliance staff have shifted dozens of offerings online, ensuring that trainings can continue uninterrupted.