Interdisciplinary Education Projects

Child Abuse Prevention and Identification Interdisciplinary Education Projects

In 2021, through authorizing legislation in the Child Welfare Research, Training, and Demonstration category of the FY 2021 Omnibus Bill, the Children’s Bureau (CB) provided funding through NCWWI to support and enhance current interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate education programs that improve training on how to prevent, identify, and respond to child abuse.

For child welfare systems to achieve their goals, they must attract, develop, and retain a diverse workforce with knowledge and skills in understanding families and preventing and intervening when needed to reduce child abuse and neglect. In July 2021, NCWWI issued a Request for Proposals for Child Abuse Prevention and Identification Interdisciplinary Education Projects, inviting state, county, and tribal child welfare programs; community colleges; tribal colleges; undergraduate and graduate programs; and not-for-profit agencies working in the field of child abuse and neglect to apply for funding to expand or enhance a current interdisciplinary education program designed to prepare future professionals across a number of disciplines with greater knowledge, skills, and abilities in the prevention, identification, and response to child abuse.

The following three sites were selected from a very competitive pool of proposals.

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) made several key expansions and improvements to their existing Interdisciplinary Training Program (ITP). This work plan included improving marketing materials and recruiting additional students from locations outside the capital. New academic partnerships across the state were explored in order to effectively expand the virtual program and extend opportunities to students in rural areas. Secondly, OUHSC enhanced the current ITP program evaluation. The University incorporated a standardized procedure to track knowledge gains, obtain student satisfaction ratings, and conduct weekly formative reflection assessments throughout the course.

The University of South Dakota (USD) School of Health Sciences and the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment conducted multidisciplinary focus group sessions with professionals throughout South Dakota to develop Midwest-based case studies to enhance the current Child & Adult Advocacy Studies (CAASt) graduate certificate curriculum. CAASt is a 4-course, 12-credit online graduate-level program that allows traditional and non-traditional students to enhance their understanding of trauma across the lifespan, improve their ability to work in a multidisciplinary team, and encourage professional and system response to child maltreatment. The cases developed by professionals working with families and children who have experienced maltreatment in South Dakota are intended to promote active student engagement, analytical thinking, decision-making in complex situations, and the ability to cope with ambiguity. These cases will provide a framework for a future CAASt textbook, which will be used within the program to prepare students for real-life field experiences. Throughout the course of this project, an evaluation plan was implemented to determine the effectiveness and validity of using these cases within the CAASt curriculum to enhance student learning and experience.

The Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi (CACM) is a membership organization that provides training, funding, technical assistance, and leadership on a statewide level to local child advocacy centers and professionals responsible for responding to reports of child abuse. The CACM also provides coordination, technical assistance, and training support to 28 colleges, universities, community colleges, law schools, and medical schools that offer interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) courses throughout Mississippi.  

With the support of this grant, CACM enhanced their efforts to prepare future professionals across disciplines with greater knowledge, skills, and abilities in the prevention and identification of and response to incidences of child abuse. They implemented simulation modules in spring 2022 designed to increase students’ knowledge of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, mandated reporting, minimal facts interviewing, a trauma-informed victim-centered approach, and recognizing and documenting child abuse for students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

In addition, the funding supported scholarships for CAST students from various institutions to attend CACM’s annual conference, where experts from the child welfare field provided information on the latest trends and topics. The funding was also used to enhance the video and sound equipment used to facilitate remote simulation training and interactions. 

What We Learned

The three sites each enhanced or expanded their interdisciplinary education projects in diverse ways. However, we consistently learned that these programs’ approaches resulted in centering the needs and desires of children and families rather than narrowly viewing these through the scope of any particular agency or sector. The sites have shared their wisdom and experiences in this video that describes their programs and the impact of an interdisciplinary approach to child welfare education. NCWWI has also compiled major themes of the skills needed for effective interdisciplinary approaches in this infographic. We are greater when we work together. We hope these resources support your efforts toward interdisciplinary education and practice.