By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
A new agreement is funding classes and internships for Eastern New Mexico University students planning to work in public child welfare.
The university and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department have established at Title IV-E Traineeship Stipend Program.
ENMU will receive money from Title IV-E of the Social Security Act every year to provide special courses in child welfare and field experience with stipends for participating students.
Donald Holden, regional CYFD manager, said in a news release the “stipends will benefit the university, the student and CYFD by assisting the student financially, ensuring them a job upon graduation and permitting CYFD to fill vacancies in hard-to-place locations.”
Under the Title IV-E agreement, social work program students, who are juniors and seniors, can receive stipends for semesters spent working in child protective services as a social worker for 16 hours per week.
For each semester they receive a stipend, students agree to work nine months after graduation in that field.
“The whole basis of it is for New Mexico Children, Youth and Families to have social workers for child protective services,” said ENMU social work Field Director Barbara Palantone.
Juniors who are selected receive $4,000 for one semester of field work, and seniors receive $9,000 for two semesters.
Palantone said two seniors are participating this year, but six stipends are available.
Social work senior Louann Cruz, 36, is doing a field placement in Roswell, where she lives and takes ENMU distance education classes. She said she works alongside a social worker to serve young people and foster and adoptive families.
In the Title IV-E program, Cruz participates in a weekly class as well as her internship. As assignments, she assesses and discusses situations in her field placements.
Cruz said she went into the social work program knowing it was about helping people, but she’s learned that social workers do more.
“The social workers are not just there to help people; they’re involved in creating policy, programs to help the community,” she said.
For the special classes, ENMU offers a public child welfare course and courses on child abuse and neglect.
The public child welfare class has operated in previous semesters as preparation for the Title IV-E agreement, and the child abuse and neglect course is planned to debut this spring.
Palantone said the child abuse and neglect class would be open to anyone so students in other majors who may encounter abused or neglected child can learn how to recognize signs and help.