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Preparing for Critical Practice in Child Welfare Pathway through the BSW Programs

B.S.W.Preparing for Critical Practice in Child Welfare Pathway through the BSW Programs

Pathway #1: Preparing for Critical Practice in Child Welfare

Are you interested in a career in child welfare?

The McMaster University School of Social Work is partnering with child welfare agencies in southwestern Ontario to offer an enhanced educational experience to BSW students in the areas of child welfare and child protection.

What is Preparing for Critical Practice in Child Welfare (PCPCW)?

PCPCW emphasizes knowledge, skills, and attitudes that underpin child welfare work, and nurtures student attitudes and critical thinking abilities by drawing on current research and best practice from around the world, including Indigenous approaches to child welfare. PCPCW prepares BSW students for long-term careers in any child protection system in Canada and similar child protection settings internationally. Emphasis will be placed on the policy and practice limitations and possibilities of various child welfare systems that students may work within. Attention is paid to producing graduates with the potential for future leadership within child welfare who can successfully work within the system while also having the ability to think outside them.

Who can participate in PCPCW?

The PCPCW Pathway is currently under review.  At this point, the Pathway is possible for: 

  • Students who are currently in level 2 of the Honours BSW program;
  • Post-degree BSW students who begin in September 2016, September 2017, September 2018 Or September 2019;
  • Part-time students may be eligible but should speak with the Social Work Administrator to carefully plan their credits.

What does PCPCW include?

Students who participate in PCPCW will usually complete all of the following:

  • SOCWORK 4W03 (Child Welfare course);
  • SOCWORK 3D06 Field Placement (in a related area, but not in a child welfare agency); be sure to discuss your interest in the PCPCW with the Field Education coordinator - she will help you identify a relevant setting;
  • SOCWORK 4SA3 and SOCWORK 4SB3 (Advanced Theory Process & Communications: Critical Practice in Child Welfare courses, to be taken in 4th year);
  • SOCWORK 4D06 Field Placement (in one of the participating child welfare agencies)

How does PCPCW affect my BSW field placements?

PCPCW students will complete their SOCWORK 3D06 Field Placement in a related area, but not in a child welfare agency to maintain the generalist character of the BSW. PCPCW students will have the opportunity to interview for a SOCWORK 4D06 Field Placement with at least one of the participating child welfare agencies. Students who successfully secure a placement will be provided with support and mentorship from Field Instructors who are linked to and familiar with PCPCW.

What opportunities does PCPCW offer BSW students?

Advanced Theory, Process and Communication Courses

PCPCW students will take two new courses on casework designed to integrate theory and practice with a particular focus on child welfare. Registration in these courses will be limited to 12 students.

Preparedness for Child Welfare Practice

PCPCW students will develop increased academic knowledge about child welfare practice, as well as a broader awareness of and commitment to increased quality service. PCPCW students will have the opportunity to apply critical social work skills in both simulated and real child welfare settings where practice is fast-paced, highly regulated, usually complex, often conflictual, and where attention to issues of power, anti-oppression, decolonization, and other social justice issues is crucial.

Cross-sectoral Child Welfare Practice

Child welfare agencies maintain relationships and partnerships with a number of community stakeholders including police services, the education system, the legal/criminal justice system, social services, Public Health, etc. Students who participate in PCPCW and complete their 4th year SOCWORK 4D06 placement at a participating child welfare agency will have the opportunity to liaise with these stakeholders and engage in cross-sectoral, community development social work practice.

Pilot Projects / Special Programs

Child welfare agencies develop and offer unique programs and pilot projects to respond to client and community needs. Students who participate in PCPCW will have the opportunity to be exposed to and engage with these programs as part of their 4th year placement. Unique programs and pilot projects will be communicated when students are considering agencies for their 4th year placement.

What else do I need to know about PCPCW?

  • Participating in PCPCW is voluntary and does not result in any formal designation on your degree.
  • Do you have access to a vehicle? Most child welfare agencies require that students have a car while on placement and some agencies are a 30 to 60 minute drive from McMaster University.
  • Plan your units carefully, and have a back-up plan. Six units are needed for the new 6-unit advanced course on case work, and enrollment in this course is capped at 12 students.
  • You may not have enough units available to complete a minor
  • PCPCW is being offered as a pilot and will be evaluated over 4 cohorts of BSW students. PCPCW students will be invited to participate in research, which is voluntary; your participation or not in the research will not affect any aspect of your participation in the BSW program, including student evaluations in BSW course work and field placements.

Confirming Participation in the PCPCW Pathway

BSW students should express their interest to participate in the PCPCW pathway as soon as possible to ensure that they plan their program units carefully. Six units are needed for the new Advanced Theory, Process & Communication courses (SOCWORK 4SA3 & SOCWORK 4SB3), and enrollment in each course is capped at 12 students based on the number of PCPCW placements available at the participating child welfare agencies.

Students are encouraged to have a back-up plan and to keep in mind that given the number of required units in the pathway, they may not be able to complete a Minor if already in progress. Students entering Level 2 who are considering the PCPCW pathway are encouraged to speak with Tammy Maikawa, Administrator, for academic counseling.  Eligible and interested BSW students are also encouraged to discuss their interest in the PCPCW with the Field Education Coordinator so they can appropriately plan their placement for SOCWORK 3DD6 A/B.

 In order to assess and grant permission for students to register for SOCWORK 4SA3 and SOCWORK 4SB3, Social Work faculty and staff will utilize evaluations completed as part of the SOCWORK 3DD6 Field Practicum and Seminar.

If students are exempt from the SOCWORK 3DD6 Field Practicum due to relevant work and/or educational experiences, they will be considered for SOCWORK 4SA3 and SOCWORK 4SB3 on a case-by-case basis. Students who have been granted an exemption are asked to contact Tammy Maikawa to determine what is required to confirm eligibility for the PCPCW pathway.

 If students who are interested in the PCPCW pathway complete a SOCWORK 3DD6 Summer Block and SOCWORK 4DD6 Concurrent (i.e. back to back placements), they will receive conditional acceptance into the pathway. Acceptance will be confirmed following receipt and review of the SOCWORK 3DD6 mid-term evaluations.

SOCWORK 3DD6 evaluations will be reviewed by the PCPCW selection committee to determine eligibility and acceptance into the pathway, as well as to grant permission to register for SOC WORK 4SA3 and SOCWORK 4SB3. The selection committee will be reviewing the overall progress of the student, and confirming whether the student has developed and demonstrated social work knowledge, skills, and attitudes as part of their SOCWORK 3DD6 Field Practicum to the level that makes them ready to succeed in the advanced theory and process courses. Particular emphasis will be placed at demonstrable “soft skills,” that is, the student possesses the skills and has demonstrated the ability to engage with clients, foster collaborative working relationships, engage in critical reflexivity and self-reflection, and practice from a social justice and anti-oppressive standpoint.

Students will be notified of their ability to register for the Advanced Theory, Process and Communication courses before registration for the Fall/Winter terms opens in Mosaic.

Still have questions?

For administrative questions, contact Tammy Maikawa, Administrator for the School of Social Work, at

For questions about child welfare social work or PCPCW curriculum content, contact Gary Dumbrill at

For more information:
School of Social Work
Kenneth Taylor Hall (KTH), Room 319
(905) 525-9140 ext. 23795
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