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Child Welfare Scholars Program

Public child welfare social workers serve some of the most vulnerable children, youth and families in need in the state of California.

In service to the goals of diversifying and professionalizing the workforce, the Berkeley Child Welfare Scholars Program prepares selected MSW students for careers in public child welfare. 

Child Welfare Scholars complete a specialized curriculum that includes two years of field placement in either a county child welfare unit, or a closely related agency serving child welfare clients. The program provides up to two years of financial assistance, in exchange for a post-graduation work commitment of least two years in a California county public child welfare service agency.

Child Welfare Scholars Program Funding

The Child Welfare Scholars Program is Berkeley's implementation of the Title IV-E Stipend Program, administered by the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC). Students selected to participate as Child Welfare Scholars receive a training stipend of $18,500 annually for up to two academic years. Funds are typically distributed to students' campus accounts as cash stipend payments at the beginning of each fall and spring semester.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Child Welfare Scholars must be accepted for admission to the Berkeley MSW Program.
  • Students must have a valid driver's license, and be able to commit to securing the use of a car as required for field placement.
  • Prior to accepting any field placement or county employment, Child Welfare Scholars stipend recipients are required to complete a criminal background check and DMV pre-screening.
  • Participating Scholars should be eligible to work in the State of California upon graduation.

Application and Selection Process

Eligible students who have been accepted for admission to the MSW Program may apply to be considered for the Child Welfare Scholars Program. Selected applicants are invited to a panel interview with Berkeley MSW Program faculty and county child welfare agency representatives as part of the selection process, which occurs simultaneously with the annual admissions cycle each academic year.

Prospective Child Welfare Scholars submit an application to the program along with their application for admission to the Berkeley MSW Program. Child Welfare Scholars Program applications are submitted directly to the online application for admission. The Graduate Application for Admission for Fall 2019 will open on September 4th, and the application deadline is December 3, 2018.

Child Welfare Scholars Program Description

Berkeley Child Welfare Scholars complete their MSW degree in the specialization area of Strengthening Children, Youth and Families ("SCYF"). Please note that participation in the Child Welfare Scholars Program precludes enrollment in any concurrent degree programs.


Academic classes and internships emphasize working with children and families who have incidents of abuse and neglect. Special field seminar sections and course work address the unique challenges that families in this system endure and present to their workers. World-renowned policy and practice instructors and researchers expose students to the most current research being conducted in public child welfare. Clinical instructors with significant employment experience in public child welfare provide practice courses and coordinate internships.

Students must be enrolled full-time for the duration of the program, remain in good academic standing, and complete their degree at Berkeley.

Field Placement

Child Welfare Scholars are required to do their second year internship within a county public child welfare program, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) or, for those who qualify, a tribal or reservation program.

Post-Graduation Work Commitment

Upon graduation students must work in a position appropriate to a new MSW in child welfare services with a county child welfare services agency or the CDSS child welfare division or, for those who qualify, a tribal or reservation program, for a period of two years.

Initially a student is required to apply to all counties within a 75-mile radius of the student’s residence, but should no qualifying position be available within 6 months of graduation, the student is required to seek employment with all 58 counties in the state. If no qualifying position is available statewide, the graduate may request permission to seek qualified employment with a non-profit agency that serves IV-E clients.

A Child Welfare Scholars Program graduate who is employed in a county or state DSS, and who gets that agency’s leave of absence and recommendation, must return to that agency and render two years of continuous and satisfactory full-time employment at a level appropriate to a new MSW in return for the two year stipend award. If a position meeting these requirements is not available in the agency to which service is owed, the student must apply for and accept an equivalent or higher position in another CWS office as noted above.

Resources for Applicants and Scholars

Contact us to learn more about the Child Welfare Scholars Program!
Program Director: Christina Feliciana, MSW PPSC (

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