Need for BASW Program Being Re-assessed

The Title IV-E BASW program that CalSWEC developed nearly a decade ago is getting a second look. 

The program, which took effect in fall 2004, was developed in response to the needs of rural counties to provide child welfare social workers with the values and practice skills of professional social work. Since 2005, 265 students have graduated with BASWs from the six accredited university programs.

Recent reports from the field that BASWs were having difficulty getting hired as child welfare social workers, however, prompted the Workforce Development and Funding Committee of CalSWEC’s Board of Directors to request CalSWEC's research staff to conduct an evaluation to re-assess the need for the Title IV-E BASW program

The key evaluation question was:

Should the BASW be seen as the beginning practice degree in public child welfare or as a pre-cursor to the MSW?

A survey was developed and pre-tested by CalSWEC staff and the BASW project coordinators to learn how the graduates assessed their preparation for the California child welfare social services job market.

Survey Results
The following are the results of the survey conducted between October 12 and December 3, 2012:

  • 53% of the CalSWEC BASW graduates responded to the survey;
  • The majority were grateful for having the support for obtaining a baccalaureate degree;
  • More than half would like to obtain an MSW;
  • Those not satisfied with what they were doing in their careers considered the CalSWEC work obligation conditions problematic;
  • 64% of the respondents have child welfare social work job titles;
  • 52% of the respondents are working in public child welfare (including Tribal) agencies;
  • 35% do not have child welfare social work job titles, including nearly 15% who do not have social work jobs at this time;
  • Almost two-thirds of the BASW graduates are satisfied that they are doing what they were educated to do and what they expected to do.

The jobs described by satisfied respondents indicated that, rather than traditional child welfare social work jobs, many help connect other social services with prevention and child welfare, such as transition-aged youth stabilization, after-care services provision, and eligibility determination and resource finding for at-risk families.

Employment Difficulties Raise Questions
Starting with the 2008 graduates, many have found obtaining jobs difficult and have been required to go outside their home area to fulfill the BASW work obligation. The graduates had difficulties finding jobs in the central and southern regions of the state and to some extent in Los Angeles County. Competition with MSWs for the same jobs was also a factor.

Based on uncertainties in the public agency institutional environment that are beyond anyone’s control, e.g., realignment, the results of this study raised significant questions:  

  • One alternative would be for a BASW graduate to move directly into an MSW program after graduation. This would work for those who know they want to be child welfare social workers, but what about those who are unsure? 
  • If moving into the MSW program is not feasible or appropriate for all BASWs, what is being done to create skill-appropriate jobs at that level in the county agencies? And what should CalSWEC’s role be in this process?