Description & History

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The California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) is unique in the annals of both social work education and the public social services in the state and the nation. Before its founding, never before had the entire social work academic community and the public social services joined forces to improve the education and training of social workers for all the publicly supported social services.

CalSWEC's beginnings are described in "Where We Came From" in Part 1 of CalSWEC: Our First Decade: 1990-2000.

The movement to advance social work’s commitment to the poor and the services upon which they depended was led by Dr. Harry Spechtpictured below, the Dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley from 1977 to 1995.
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Dean Specht’s vision led to the creation of CalSWEC in 1990. The state’s then-10 graduate schools of social work, the county departments of social services and mental health, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), and the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) formed this consortium to:

  • Promote the preparation of social workers for employment in public child welfare systems;
  • Upgrade the professional background of some already-employed public welfare workers interested in gaining additional skills and knowledge in child welfare;
  • Increase numbers of minorities in professional social welfare positions to reflect the populations served; and
  • Open the doors to innovation by integrating university research with county services and graduate social work curriculum development.

CalSWEC, initially called the California Center for Graduate Social Education for the Public and Non-Profit Social Services, was considered a unique collaboration of government and academia. It attracted national attention for its innovation and foresight, as well as its size and scope.