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Award to fund new UI center

BY HOLLY HINES | NOVEMBER 04, 2009 7:20 AM

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The UI School of Social Work will use a $4.75 million award to create the National Resource Center for In-Home Services to research child-welfare practices nationwide.

The new center, which will be part of the college’s existing National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, will be funded by the nearly $5 million received from the Children’s Bureau, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The UI resource center — founded in the late 1970s — joins 10 other similar institutions nationwide in the Children’s Bureau’s Child Welfare Training and Assistance Network.

Officials at the new center, located with the existing facility at Oakdale Hall, will use the money to research improvements in child-welfare practices nationwide, said Lisa D’Aunno, program director for the center.

D’Aunno said officials, including some UI faculty, will assess how professionals help families maintain safe environments to keep children at home and out of foster care.

Staff at the center will then train case workers, court officials, and others involved with the welfare process to better help families, she said.

“It’s an awesome responsibility we have,” said Miriam Landsman, the principal investigator for the program and a UI social-work associate professor.

Those involved with the project will be available to help state welfare agencies nationwide update their practices, she said.

The center may offer internships for UI students, she said, though officials haven’t decided what their work would entail or when they would begin.

Myra Schnieders, a UI student involved in the Graduate Social Work Student Association, said she thinks many social-work students would be interested in these internships largely because the graduate social-work program requires a lot of hands-on experience.

Schnieders said she’s pleased funding was provided for research in the field.

“This is a group of people who really want to change the world,” she said, and she views fellow social work students as altruistic, determined people.

Abby Tinker, also a graduate student in social work, said the funding should help those involved in social work deliver the best services possible, adding the potential internships would be a benefit for students.

“Being part of getting a program off the ground would be an invaluable experience,” she said.

Part of the experience could involve assessing welfare systems for various American Indian tribes, officials said.

One focus of the center is to ensure children in American Indian families remain in their homes whenever possible, D’Aunno said, noting that these children have historically been disproportionately relocated.

“The ultimate goal is that more students would be safe in their own homes,” she said.


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