Direct Practice in Children & Families

What is the Direct Practice with Children and Families Specialty?

The Direct Practice with Children & Families specialty provides advanced social work students with information, skills, and expertise relevant to social work practice with children and their families in a variety of settings including schools, foster care, adoption, child protective services, family crisis intervention, and therapy practice, among others. The Direct Practice with Children & Families specialty is offered in-person on the Arlington campus and 100% online.

What do Children & Family Students Learn?

Students graduating from the Direct Practice with Children & Families specialty can facilitate change for individuals and families. They partner with individuals, families, and communities to improve lives by:

  • Advocating for overall wellness of diverse youth and families at the individual, family, and community levels
  • Employing skills that facilitate work with children, adolescents, and their families
  • Assessing families and children to identify issues for focus toward improving wellbeing of families and children
  • Providing trauma informed, equity focused social work practice within child serving systems
  • Participating in policy efforts to keep families healthy, united, and strong

What to Know

If you are interested in joining the Direct Practice with Children & Families specialty, here are a few quick things to keep in mind:

  • Students can start in the Fall and Spring (some students may be able to start in the summer)
  • Courses are offered In-Person and 100% Online
  • 12-Month Cohort is Available

Do you have questions about registering for Direct Practice with Children & Families courses? Admitted and current students can schedule an appointment with their Academic Advisor today!

Find My Advisor

What our Children & Families Students Say

My experience with the MSW has been rewarding by going more into depth with my specific specialty of children and families.  I can see I will be prepared and ready after graduation as a future social worker.

Pauline Sias

Children & Families Coursework

The basis for all Children & Families coursework is an emphasis on assessment and intervention, ethical decision-making, and cultural humility skills. Students will engage with demanding content as they advance through a series of mandatory courses, subsequently diversifying their learning experience by selecting from a variety of electives to enhance their understanding and proficiency in specific practice-oriented subjects.

A child in a light brown shirt and blue jeans sitting on a couch talking to a doctor.

Advanced Coursework Students are required to complete

  • Two Introductory Practice Courses
  • Two Integrated Theory and Practice Courses
  • Two+ Elective Courses
  • One Specialty Policy Course
  • One Advanced Research or Program Evaluation Course
  • One Capstone Course (Unless Thesis Option is Selected)
  • Advanced Field Placement 

View The Full Curriculum

Educational Objectives of Children & Families

By graduation, students specializing in Children & Families will achieve the foundation objectives and the following advanced specialization objectives:

  • Child Welfare Advocacy and Policy: Deepen their understanding of policies of child and family-serving systems, such as child welfare, schools, and criminal justice, among others and develop advocacy skills to promote systemic change that can improve outcomes for children and families.
  • Cultural Humility and Equity: Practice cultural humility and sensitivity when interacting with client systems, including understanding the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and other social identities that influence child and family well-being.
  • Research-Informed Practice: Recognize evidence-based practices to critically evaluate existing assessments and interventions, apply findings to practice, and contribute to advancing knowledge in the field through research and evaluation of practices.
  • Systemic Approach to Child and Family Well-Being: Have a deep understanding of family systems theories and dynamics, including exploring family structures, roles, communication patterns, and resilience through a strengths-based lens and that recognizes the intersection of the family system with larger systems and their environments.
  • Specialized Populations and Issues: Explore strategies for working with specialized populations and issues related to children and families, such as working with individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ+ youth and families, immigrant and refugee families, incarcerated parents, and families impacted by substance misuse and/or mental health issues.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Develop skills to actively participate in interdisciplinary collaboration and teams by working collaboratively with professionals from intersecting disciplines such as education and health care to provide holistic services to children and families.


What are the types of Internship and Job Opportunities in Children & Families?

Children & Families students successfully find a variety of field placement and post-graduation jobs. Often students placed in leading organizations for their internship find job opportunities at the same organization after graduation. These organizations run from local to national, government to nonprofit, and much more.

  • Schools and Education Systems
  • Children and Family Therapy and Counseling
  • Primary Care Clinics and Hospitals
  • CPS and Case Management
  • Government Agencies
  • Non-Profit Organizations
Learn About Field

Meet the Children & Families Specialization Faculty

Karla Arenas-Itotia, MA, MSSW, LMSW

Associate Professor of Practice

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

IPVE Taskforce Chair

Karla Arenas-Itotia

Research Interests: Social Work Education, online, interprofessional and experiential learning, school social work, student success and support services, education access, community outreach, interpersonal violence, trauma, mental health, social work direct practice, and issues of gender, family, race, and ethnicity.

LaShaunn Bold, LMSW

Associate Professor of Practice

Lashaunn Bold

Research Interests: Child Welfare, Domestic Violence, Victim Services, Community Development, Non-profit management, Volunteer Coordination

Jandel Crutchfield, PhD , LCSW

Associate Professor

Jandel Crutchfield

Research Interests: Social work in traditional and charter schools, cultural competence of school social workers, colorism and social work practice.

Erin Findley, PhD, LMSW

Assistant Professor of Practice

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Erin Findley

Research Interests: Child Welfare; Foster Care; Foster Parenting

Genevieve Graaf, PhD, MSW

Assistant Professor

Genevieve Graaf

Research Interests: Children's Mental Health Policy and Service Systems; Evidence-Based Practice in Community Settings; Implementation Science and Knowledge Translation in Social Work; Medicaid Home and Community-Based Service Policies; Medicaid and disparities in access to care

Darlene Hunter, PhD, LMSW

Assistant Professor of Practice

Darlene Hunter

Research Interests: Disability; Disability and Sports

Catherine LaBrenz, PhD

Assistant Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Catherine LaBrenz

Research Interests: Child Welfare; Reunification; Permanence; Family Engagement

Jennifer Murphy, PhD, MSW, MS

Assistant Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Jennifer Murphy

Research Interests: Child and adolescent mental health, Mental health service utilization, School of social work practice, Interprofessional mental health practice in schools, and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Tiara Okoruwa, PhD, LMSW

Assistant Professor of Practice

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Dr. Tiara Thomas

Research Interests:: Social Work Faculty Preparedness; Controversial Conversations in the Classroom; Qualitative Methodology

Morgan PettyJohn, PhD

Assistant Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Morgan PettyJohn

Research Interests: Sexual violence, Intimate partner violence, Social Media, Masculinities, Couple and Family Therapy

Kelli Rogers, PhD

Assistant Professor of Practice

Kelli Rogers

Research Interests: : Advancing racial equity in public and higher education; social work practice in schools; intersection among child welfare, juvenile justice, and education; disproportionality and disparities in child welfare and juvenile justice systems; social policy for children and families; culturally responsive practice; and community-based social work

Scott Ryan, PhD, MSW, MBA


Dean Scott Ryan

Allison Tomlinson, PhD, LCSW-S

Director of Undergraduate Programs

Assistant Professor of Practice

Allison Tomlinson

Research Interests: Maternal incarceration, stress theory and non-normative family stress, couple and marriage dynamics in African American families, and mental health.

Rachel Voth Schrag, PhD, LCSW

Associate Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

IPVE Taskforce Development Subcommittee Chair

Rachel Voth Schrag

Research Interests: Violence Against Women, Trauma and Mental Health, Convergence of Poverty and Interpersonal Trauma, Violence Against Women in Diverse Educational Settings; Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Intervention

Micki Washburn, PhD, LMSW, MA, LPC-S

Assistant Professor

Personal Pronouns: She/Her

Micki Washburn

Research Interests: Health disparities related to mental health and substance misuse in historically underserved communities, applications of technology in behavioral health assessment and treatment, mindfulness based clinical interventions for women with co-occurring mental health and substance use concerns, social policy related to SOGIE for child welfare involved youth and families.


Brianna Gibbs
Academic Recruiter
Primarily Graduate Admissions

Office:  SWSH 203O

Dolores Bevins
Admissions Counselor II
Phone: 817-272-1044
Office:  SWSH 203Q

Darlene Santee
Manager for Recruiting and Admissions
Office:  SWSH 203U

Antwan C. Williams, J.D.
Asst. Director of Communications, Marketing, Recruiting, Admissions,
and Community Outreach

Office:  SWSH 203S