August 20, 2021

The Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) and the University of Washington recently renewed an 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 policy and analysis group at UW Seattle.

The Alliance supports education for child welfare–focused MSW students at the three campuses and training for DCYF staff and people caring for adopted children and children in foster care. The new agreement extends the Alliance for eight years, with the potential for further extension, and commits $80 million in funding over those eight years. 

On a typical day in Washington state, about 7,500 children live in foster care. Each year, the DCYF conducts as many as 90,000 investigations for allegations of child abuse or neglect. 

The UW School of Social Work entered into the partnership in 2010 to help ensure consistent, high-quality training for the state’s child welfare workforce. Alliance administrators and trainers have access to cutting-edge science on effective training methods and to researchers who can analyze data in order to measure training effectiveness and impact. The Alliance also oversees the Child Welfare Training and Advancement Program, which provides MSW students at UW Seattle, UW Tacoma and Eastern Washington University who commit to working in the child welfare system upon graduation with educational grants and specialized field education in selected DCYF offices.

As a coordinated education and training system, the Alliance has expanded and improved training opportunities, increased funding for child welfare training and lifted the burden of training management from the DCYF so it can focus on its core mission of providing services to families.

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 potentially include child welfare–related training for 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.