SD Sees Progress in Boosting Training for Child-Abuse Case Workers
Monday, July 31, 2023
A South Dakota academic program that enhances training for those who respond to child abuse and neglect cases is gaining momentum.
In the past couple of years, the University of South Dakota has seen its first groups of students earn certificates for Child and Adult Advocacy Studies. Participants get a deeper understanding of child maltreatment and how to respond.
Tifanie Petro is the advocacy and prevention programs director statewide for the Children's Home Society. She's among the first graduates and noted that it's not just for graduate students before they enter the field.
Professionals like her tout the program's emphasis on how to work with other entities on these cases.
"It's really about bringing the partners together, to wrap around the person that has had this experience," said Petro, "versus making the person try to go to different systems and try to navigate it on their own."
And learning more about the effects associated with abuse and neglect inspired Petro to push for a new state law that just took effect.
It allows for a trauma-informed courtroom experience for children who have to testify against an abuser.
An element of the studies program just received an honorable mention from the U.S. Public Health Service and Interprofessional Education Collaborative.
The University of South Dakota's Department of Social Work Chair Kelly Bass is the director of the new program. He said integrating realistic cases through simulation has helped USD's model see some early success.
Bass noted that not having any taste of "in-the-field" scenarios can sometimes be a challenge for case workers when they transition from the classroom to their professional career.
"You're attempting to provide standards of practice," said Bass, "but you're also overwhelmed by the circumstances that are in front of you. "
He said the classes not only help students learn how to respond to individual cases but also situations where there are multiple victims of abuse.
This broader approach also is being used at more than 90 academic institutions across 30 states. The Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment helped get South Dakota's program off the ground.
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