The California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) Public Child Welfare program was established to increase the availability of professionally trained social workers and child welfare staff in public social services in California. With federal Title IV-E funding, CalSWEC provides stipends for 24 students in the full-time MSW program at UCLA.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why should I choose CalSWEC?

If you are an MSW candidate with a strong inter- est in pursuing a career in public child welfare, then CalSWEC is an opportunity to subsidize your education. CalSWEC is a two year stipend program that offers $18,500 per year. Students who receive this assistance “payback” the stipend with two years of employment at any public child welfare (PCW) agency in the State of California. Students interested in working with Native American populations have more payback options.

CalSWEC attempts to recruit students who reflect the needs and ethnic makeup of the public child welfare client base. A preference is given to candidates who are current public social services and public child welfare employees.

How do I qualify for CalSWEC?

First, candidates must be admitted into the UCLA MSW program. Candidates who indicate an interest in the Children and Youth Services specialization are sent an application.

What is the application process?

There is a two-part application process that involves a written interview and an oral interview. Generally, this is a rolling process, in which applications are processed as they are received, that begins in March and ends in June.

Written: The application includes questions about your understanding of CalSWEC requirements and public child welfare goals.

Oral: The interview will explore your interest and experience working with this population. The oral interview panelists are CalSWEC faculty and a public child welfare supervisor.

The preliminary selections are confirmed by the CalSWEC Awards Committee. Official CalSWEC award notifications are determined in July.

What options do I have and what are the course requirements?

CalSWEC students can choose to be either in the Social Work with Individuals, Families and Groups (SWIFG) or Social Work with Organi- zations, Communities and Planning (SWOCP) concentration.

  • Many elective courses are available to enhance your education. One law-related choice is required:
  • Interdisciplinary Child Abuse class (taught in the School of Law)
  • Social Work and the Law

These other requirements prepare you for working in the child welfare field:

  • Advanced research with a focus on child welfare
  • Integrated seminar with a focus on child welfare
  • Advanced practice with a focus on child welfare practice, depending on concentration choice
  • Policy seminar with a focus on child welfare
  • Adult and child psychopathology

Where are the placements?

CalSWEC students can choose to be either in the Social Work with Individuals, Families and Groups (SWIFG) or Social Work with Organi- zations, Communities and Planning (SWOCP) concentration.

  • Many elective courses are available to enhance your education. One law-related choice is required:
  • Interdisciplinary Child Abuse class (taught in the School of Law)
  • Social Work and the Law

These other requirements prepare you for working in the child welfare field:

  • Advanced research with a focus on child welfare
  • Integrated seminar with a focus on child welfare
  • Advanced practice with a focus on child welfare practice, depending on concentration choice
  • Policy seminar with a focus on child welfare
  • Adult and child psychopathology

Do you have a part-time program?

No.  At this time, we only offer a full-time program.

What have former students said about CalSWEC?

Jesse Marez, M.S.W. ’97, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Adoptions: “Everyone tells you, ‘This is a hard job.’ Yes, that is true, but the key to doing it well is good organization. I love my job and my clinical skills have grown enormously here. My CalSWEC placements and classes made a difference for me.”

Tuin Bui, M.S.W. ’97, Santa Clara County Department of Children’s Services: “I think I received a great education in the UCLA CalSWEC program. I understand the big picture and I am confident in my direct practice work with clients.”

Brian Reems, M.S.W. ’98, San Francisco Department of Social Services: “CalSWEC really prepared me to be a professional practitioner in a PCW agency. It helped me deal with court and understand what happens on a daily basis. CalSWEC taught me how to balance the clients’ needs and the agency’s needs. I feel confident about decision-making.”

Child and Family Placements

The following list represents placements the CalSWEC program has used in the past, although agencies may change from year to year. Students are placed in their first-year placement by a field education team. The second-year placement is chosen by the student and field liaison after an interview process.

Nonprofit Agencies

  • El Nido (Carson)
  • Aviva Center Counseling Services
  • San Fernando Child Guidance Center
  • Long Beach Child and Adolescent DMH
  • Foothill Family Services
  • Long Beach Asian Clinic Services Los Angeles County DMH
  • Coastal Asian Community Mental Health Center, LA County DMH
  • Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center
  • Venice Family Clinic

About Agency Placements

The Department of Social Welfare typically places first-year CalSWEC students in the nonprofit agencies listed. Typically, the second-year placement is used for the public child welfare agency placement. Sometimes the Department reverses this typical plan — for good cause. An example will illustrate this point. Second-year students are able to select a concentration: social work with individuals, families and groups (aka micro-practice), or social work with organizations, communities and policies (aka macro-practice). The field placement must companion the concentration choice. Thus, we have a range of micro and macro field placements available.

When we have experienced a shortage of second-year students who choose a micro concentration, we have selected two or three first-year students to fill the micro placement slots at the public child welfare agency’s CalSWEC student/unit. Essentially, this reverses the typical process, so it warrants explanation. Whenever we select first-year students for this reversal, we attempt to select the most experienced students. All first-year placements are considered to be generic; the emphasis is on direct (micro) practice. Students are required to complete a macro (advocacy, administrative, etc.) project in the first year. It appears that all of our placements would qualify for the snapshots examples of direct service. In the description below the acronym, DCFS, is used to describe the local public child welfare agency.

Profiles of the Nonprofit Agencies

El Nido (Carson): This satellite program of the El Nido Family Service Network is a strong example of a small community counseling program that has a significant impact on the area in which services are provided. In addition to providing child, adolescent and family out-patient services, this program has been a leader and innovator in developing specialized groups that operate in the local schools.

Aviva Center Counseling Services: This program provides in-home support, parenting, and counseling services to children, adolescents, parents and foster parents of kids being provided with intervention through the LA County Department of Children and Family Services. In addition, services are provided at the schools for certain children and/or at vocational sites for teens in after-school programs for high risk youth. Aviva Center spent a considerable period of time developing a model for preparing the first year student to eventually deliver services in the homes and schools of child welfare children and families provided with support, educational, and counseling services. This model involved teaming students with assessment, case-management and therapeutic staff of cases and eventually providing students with primary case-management and therapy roles. Students also participated in developing a group for high risk adolescents as a part of their job corps program. In addition, the students interacted with DCFS case workers and other providers on each case and did several reports with recommendations about visitation, therapy, and custody for the DCFS workers to use as documentation for their own comprehensive recommendations in their court reports.

San Fernando Child Guidance Center: This is a full service child guidance clinic that provides a variety of out-patient and day-treatment assessment and intervention services to children, adolescents, and their families in the clinic and in the surrounding local schools. Our students have participated in the provision of services both in the clinic and in the schools. They have participated in the development of specialized groups for children in the school that are designed to meet the needs of the SED children referred for services. Our students have also participated in the development of an innovative model for delivering specific case management services to the children and adolescents being seen at the clinic. Often these kids and their families need education, support, and linkage to resources that exceed the treating clinician’s ability to provide in a timely manner.   Domestic Abuse Center: Located in the San Fernando Valley, this program has received many accolades from local legislators and citizen organizations. The center provides advocacy, therapeutic intervention services, and parenting classes for victims of domestic violence and their children. Students placed here will also carry a few cases at an affiliated residential domestic violence shelter. This placement calls for a mature student who can manage a flexible schedule. Students are offered the opportunity to “ride along” with LAPD officers who respond to domestic violence calls. The officer is responsible for “secuing the scene” and once that is achieved, students are able to interact with the domestic violence victim and children offering them crisis intervention services and referrals to additional services. The field instructor operates as a clinician/activist/advocate and teaches the student all of those roles.

Long Beach Child and Adolescent DMH: This program provides crisis intervention and on-going therapeutic services to children and adolescents who are identified as struggling with serious emotional problems, often emotional problems that will be a part of their experience throughout their lives. In addition, these children and adolescents are growing up in an ethnically diverse and impoverished area of Long Beach, frequently in homes where substance abuse, unemployment, and complicated immigration and naturalization issues are present.

Our students have an opportunity to develop assessment and intervention skills with these children and families that involve a full range of out-patient options, day-treatment services, and case-management and multi-disciplinary team collaboration. Students have also participated in the development of specialized groups and resource materials for the clinic population.

Foothill Family Service: This program maintains a child, adolescent, adult, marital and family out-patient program. In addition, this Family Service agency realized many years ago that it was critical to continue to evaluate and to develop programs relevant to the changing community. The CalSWEC students participate in developing and providing different individual and group services to children in the local schools. Our students have been critical to developing specialized community outreach to the mono-lingual Hispanic community and they have contributed to the development and implementation of a ‘Family Safe’ and ‘Dinners on the Table’ programs to assist both parents and children at risk of future difficulties and placement. This is accomplished through a supportive model of intervention which combines education, communication and problem solving skills, learning from peers, mentoring, and preventive services for multiple family groups that often involve families with three or more generations participating at one time.

Edelman Community Mental Health Clinic, Los Angeles County DMH; Harbor/UCLA Department of Psychiatry, Los Angeles County DMH: This program contains services for Adults with persistent and chronic mental illness, those with dual diagnosis, parents and children who are a part of the CALWORKS intervention programs in Los Angeles County, and children and teens with serious acute and chronic mental illnesses. Interns within this program develop many important assessment and interventions skills with both adults and children who are at risk for or who have been in placements of various kinds and who struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, and are exposed to and suffer from the effects of family violence. Students develop clinical practice skills, case management, collaboration, program development and evaluation skills in addition to doing community outreach.

Long Beach Asian Clinic Services, Los Ange- les County DMH; Coastal Asian Community Mental Health Center, LA County DMH: This clinic serves a number of Asian immigrant and non-immigrant groups that live and work in the surrounding community. It is a facility that was developed by the county to house a number of professional and community workers with specialized knowledge and language skills. There are workers who speak Lao, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese and share other language and cultural experiences with the clients served. In addition to having a family member with a severe and persistent chronic mental illness, the families that attend the clinic are often from war-tom countries and a part of refugee groups who have been subject- ed to torture, witness to mass murders, and who have lost their connections to family, work, and homeland that is core to their self identity and sense of community. Our students become involved in all aspects of traditional and innovative community outreach services.

Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learn- ing Center: At Kaiser Watts, students are able to become immersed in the provision of traditional and innovative services to children, adolescents, emancipating minors, adults, and families. At the same time, our students are able to see and participate in the many challenges that lie in maintaining a relevant community service under the umbrella of a large HMO administration. Students have participated in developing community outreach services and in providing resource guides and information that supports the centers attempts to define itself within the parent organization.

Options for Recovery Harbor UCLA: Rehabilitative Substance Abusing Mothers Program that began as a Pilot-Demonstration Project through the state. The success of this program in helping mothers reach and attain sobriety so that their children can remain in their care has lead to the county continuing to fund this and other such programs. Our students provide individual counseling to several mothers, and develop and participate in the full range of educational, supportive, and rehabilitative substance abuse groups that occur in this day-long habilitative program. Students are also able to observe and intervene with the children who are on the same site in day care.

Venice Family Clinic: In this facility, our students become a part of the social service program of a family health center. As a result, they participate in evaluation, brief treatment, longer term interventions, and in the development and implementation of educational and support groups. Students see a range of child, adolescent, and adult living and emotional stressors often related to a primary health concern. Our students often work with bi-lingual or mono-lingual pregnant Hispanic mothers-to-be. As a result of some of the needs that have arisen in this work, over the last several years our students have participated with another staff member in the development of literature and services for Spanish speaking women who are the victims of spousal battery.  Project Impact: This agency contains a juvenile diversion program which provides an opportunity for students to run prevention groups at schools and the agency. Project Impact is also a “hub” for the Family Preservation Program, hence students placed here come to understand how this large community treatment program is administered. Students participate in providing services to the juvenile diversion teens and their families, they also work with the parents and children in the Family Preservation program. In addition the students assist with the development of program services and grant applications for both programs.

Public Child Welfare Agencies

  • Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services
  • Orange County Social Service Agency

About the Public Child Welfare Agencies

Typically, students are placed in their public child welfare placement in their second year.

Profiles of the Public Child Welfare Agencies


CalSWEC Student Unit: This unit is specially designed to give our students a variety of learn- ing experiences with all the “generic” services offered: ER, FM, FR and PP. Students work with children’s social workers who become their preceptors. They receive individual supervision from the unit supervisor. They provide direct case management services and complete a macro project. Students are expected to provide advocacy and referral services to/for clients.

Efforts are made to provide a range of ethnicities and age levels in client assignments.

Foster Family Agency Management: The student placed here learns macro practice skills in managing the issues that present when a public agency contracts with nonprofit community agencies to run their own foster homes. Student reviews contract compliance, proposal, outreach and training issues.

IV-E Waiver/Compliance Unit: The student placed here becomes acquainted with the process the agency uses to secure a waiver

from IV-E regulations as well as how the agency insures compliance with IV-E requirements. Student is also involved in research (e.g., recent time study on caseload issues).

Region IV Headquarters: The student(s) placed with this administrator learn a variety of macro and micro skills ranging from accompanying the administrator to high-level community meetings (e.g., child death review) and studying various management styles and practices to providing direct FM or FR case management services.

Training: This unit provides experienced stu- dents with an opportunity to conduct a needs assessment and develop and deliver a training to a segment of public child welfare workers. Students are also required to make recommen-

dations to training managers about modifying current in-service trainings offered experienced workers. Some trainers have a specific interest in areas such as domestic violence; students placed with these trainers have a unique opportunity to prepare and deliver curriculum for this special- ized area.

Adoptions: This unit prepares a student for all phases of direct practice adoption work. Student manages several types of cases and follows an adoption from inception to the final hearing.

Policy Bureau: This unit prepares students for understanding the agency’s process for writing and revising policies. Students conduct research, analyze legislation and evaluate options. They are required to draft a policy bulletin.


Adoptions: This unit prepares a student to understand all phases of direct practice adoption work. Students follow an adoption for the length of their placement, performing all direct and indirect services required of a case-caring worker.

Medical Placement Unit: Students in this unit carry cases of medically fragile children who understandably have special needs.

Healthy Start Unit: Student in this unit provide largely prevention work, diverting children from the public child welfare system while providing direct and referral services. For this reason, cases from Emergency Response, Family Maintenance, Family Reunification, and Permanency Planning (these are the four main services provided by any public child welfare agency in the state of California) are selectively added to this experience.

Program Development Unit: Students in this unit work on assignments to develop new pro- grams/responses for organizational needs. They are responsible for searching out and following legislation that might provide additional resources to the agency. Once a program is developed, they collaborate with a team on implementation and marketing. As with the above placement, students here must also carry a few client cases to enable them to understand the issues associated with carrying a caseload as an entry-level child social worker.

CWS-CMS Compliance: A student in this function conducts research on how workers are utilizing this statewide computerized information system. The student also provides feedback to the manager, recommending modifications and conducts, additional one-to-one training, etc. Students placed here have also had a preceptorship in another unit in order to have the direct case management experience.

Other Placements

Placements are made available in San Bernardino and Ventura counties when students request them.

Graduates of the Program

Susan Snyder

Susan Snyder ’01 wholeheartedly recommends CalSWEC and a job in public child welfare to interested students. She says that in her work in the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Emergency Response Unit, she sincerely feels able to make a difference and have an impact on children. “Nothing compares to that,” she says. UCLA’s CalSWEC program gave her the fundamentals that she honed into her current assessment skills, which she uses in investigating allegations of child abuse. She was grateful for the CalSWEC experience, which allowed her to take classes geared toward learning about public child welfare and gave her access to professors who are knowledgeable about work in that field. When faced with a serious dilemma on the job, she says she tries to imagine what her CalSWEC professors would do in that situation, and that thinking guides her decisions. Susan is very satisfied with her choice to work in public child welfare – she truly feels that she is making a difference and that she can see the tangible, positive results of her interventions with children and their families.

Corey Hanemoto

Corey Hanemoto’s ’97 job with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is a little different than many other former CalSWEC students. Corey is a program analyst for the Adoptions Division, where he is responsible for the management and organization of a range of data, such as averages for the time it takes to move a case through a finalized adoption. Corey describes his job as going beyond case management, and says that he uses the expertise regarding public child welfare that he gained in the CalSWEC program as a filter for organizing the mountains of data that come across his desk. He believes that his learning in the CalSWEC program has enabled him to navigate a large organization and taught him the basic policies and practices of DCFS, but also gave him skills he could use in any job he might choose to do. Corey is extremely satisfied with his career choice. He enjoyed his early experiences as a case-carrying worker, but believes that what he does now has a greater impact on the families and children served by DCFS. The data he develops leads to the implementation of plans and policies that have lasting positive impacts for clients. Corey’s greatest motivation to continue his work in public child welfare is the continued opportunity to learn on the job and try new things. “It never gets old,” he says.

Carla Cavalier

Carla Cavalier ’02 is a social worker in the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Family Maintenance and Reunification program, and began her work in September of 2002. She credits her CalSWEC education with giving her a “leg up” over the social workers that started work at the same time she did. In reflecting on any given workday, Carla says that she can see that she is using knowledge gained through her internship, class readings, and classroom exercises that were part of the CalSWEC curriculum and designed to enhance her knowledge of public child welfare. Carla says that her time at UCLA sharpened her inherent ability to empathize and listen, and says she uses these two skills as tools in making a difference in her client’s lives, by making it clear that she is a support they can rely on. Carla looks forward to seeing the results of the new DCFS director’s plan to return more social workers to case carrying status, which she anticipates will lower caseloads. Lower caseloads mean more face-to-face time with clients and more time for arranging “extras” for her kids that can fall by the wayside when workloads get too high. “I love my job,” Carla says, “It is difficult, intricate, and complex.”

Stan Esperon

Stan Esperon ’98 has been working in the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Adoptions Unit for five years, where his job is to develop permanent plans for children who may not be able to return to their families of origin. He finds great satisfaction in aiding kids find permanency –  kids who would otherwise languish in foster care. “Stan credits his UCLA education with teaching him to look at the overall picture when working with a child or family, paying attention to the effects of the environment on both. He recommends CalSWEC to students interested in working in public child welfare because of the support he received from fellow CalSWEC classmates during his time in school. He enjoys the challenge of working at a large public child welfare agency, where he says he is constantly learning. Stan acknowledges that the work can be frustrating at times, but makes an effort to stay focused on the positive. An example of how he maintains this focus is by attending the hearings where adoptions he orchestrated are finalized. “What I do does make an impact,” he says, and seeing his clients achieve permanent homes makes that clear.

Gloria Escamilla-Huidor

For a year prior to her entry into UCLA’s MSW program, Gloria Escamilla-Huidor ’99 worked on the front lines of Children’s Services in San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency. “I didn’t know what I was getting into,” she says, and explains that she felt unprepared to perform such an important job. Gloria decided to enter UCLA’s CalSWEC program in order to learn more about the theories and research that govern child welfare practice, so that she could be a more effective and responsible child wel- fare worker. Participating in CalSWEC was, “the best choice I could have made,” she says. Gloria returned to Children’s Services in San Diego after completion of her MSW, and just recently began working in the Interstate Compact for Placement of Children, a unit whose purpose is to protect dependent children placed outside the state of original jurisdiction. In that unit, Gloria coor- dinates placements for children coming to San Diego from other areas or for residents of San Diego who need to be placed elsewhere, in ad- dition to assisting with independent adoptions. She feels very satisfied with her career choice, where she has not only the opportunity to aid children in need of protection, but also the opportunity to assist families in working through the problems that led to abuse in the first place. In this way, she sees herself creating a more sta- ble and healthy family environment for children to return to. She, like other former CalSWEC students, points out that in a job in public child welfare, one is never bored, is always learning, and has the opportunity to grow and change professionally. Gloria knows that she is making decisions on behalf of children that will lead to a more positive life experience for them, and focuses on those differences to stay motivated in her work. She also points out that having peers in social work (her husband is also a social worker, who was in the UCLA program with her) with which one can discuss the challenges and triumphs of the work can be an amazing source of support.

Clinical Speaker Series

All UCLA Faculty are involved in the training of CalSWEC students. The Public Child Welfare Curriculum Planning Committee assures that the specialization requirements reflect practice needs. The faculty who anchor the Public Child Welfare Curriculum Committee include Mary Kay Oliveri, L.C.S.W., Diplomate Laura Alongi, L.C.S.W,. Alfreda Iglehart, Ph.D., Todd Franke, Ph.D., Department Chair and Principle Investigator, and Gerry Lavina, L.C.S.W., Director of Field.

The CalSWEC Clinical Series was developed to give students the opportunity to explore in greater depth the issues that emerge in both the field placement experience and the classroom. It is offered to to enhance actual and perceived clinical competence with difficult issues recurring among child welfare populations. Topics are derived from discussions with students and reflect the content of the CalSWEC “Goals for the Child Welfare Social Work Curriculum in California.”

Past topics covered in the series include:

  • Listening To, Talking With, And Supporting Children Exposed To Violence And Trauma, Speaker: Mary Kay Oliveri, LCSW Solution-Focused Interviewing , Speaker: Colleen Friend, LCSW
  • Los Angeles County Department Of Children And Family Services, Speaker: Dr. David Sanders
  • Ethical Issues In Child Welfare Social Work Practice, Speaker: Colleen Friend, LCSW
  • Working With Adolescents: How To Survive Being An Adult In A Teenage World, Speaker: Mary Kay Oliveri, LCSW For upcoming events, please check the Department of Social Welfare Events Calendar.

Download a brochure about the CalSWEC program (PDF)

Contact Us

Project Coordinator
Mary Kay Oliveri, L.C.S.W.
Diplomate, Field Liaison, First Year Student
(310) 993-7031

Laura Alongi, L.C.S.W.
Field Liaison and Instructor
(310) 206-9201

Sergio R. Serna, M.S.W.
Field Liaison and Instructor
(310) 794-7242

Gena Morris|
Administrative Analyst
(310) 206-6048