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The Master of Social Work Program


Family-in-Environment:  Advanced Theory and Practice of Social Work


Program Overview

The Master of Social Work Program at Kutztown University focuses on the needs of the family in its social environment. During their study, MSW students are actively engaged with faculty experts in both exploring and enhancing their knowledge as it related to the strengths and needs of the family in all its diverse forms. Students, faculty and human service providers collaborate to provide service to families at risk, intervene with families in crisis, connect clients to causes and change the social environment to support the families of today and the families of tomorrow.

The length of study is two years for full time study and a maximum of four years for a structured part time study.  Students develop a clear understanding and ability to practice generalist social work in their foundation year of study. The advanced year provides a concentration, developing depth, breadth, and specificity in knowledge on the family in its social environment. Students develop further specialization through elective course offerings and a 960-hour agency-based practicum experience. This specialized program of study is achieved through each student’s choice of six, 1-credit elective courses from a broad range of topics, from therapeutic interventions to agency administration and policy development.


The Master of Social Work Program at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania is dedicated to elevating the quality of life for Pennsylvania’s families in all their diverse forms and backgrounds.  Through the program’s curricular and programmatic activities, it aspires to prepare competent, autonomous professionals—grounded in core social work values—to develop social work knowledge and skills and to provide leadership in the development of policy for service delivery systems.  Overall, the program works with and on behalf of families to create a social environment in which the family—as a pivotal social institution—functions to assist individuals to realize their fullest potential for accomplishing goals, for developing resources, for preventing and alleviating personal distress and social injustice, for finding personal fulfillment, and for making social contribution.


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Program Goals

Goal 1—Integrate Theory into Practice:  To help graduates use critical thinking and integrate liberal arts and professional knowledge, values and skills into the development of a generalist perspective for social work practice with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations.

Goal 2—Celebrate Diversity: To help graduates recognize the value of human diversity, acquire knowledge related to diverse populations for professional practice, and acquire skills for change to redress economic and social injustice.

 Goal 3—Conduct Policy Practice: To prepare graduates to understand social policy and its impact upon professional practice and to participate in efforts to assure that policy responds to human needs.

Goal 4—Assume Professional Identity:  To motivate graduates to assume responsibility for continuing professional growth and development.

Goal 5—Incorporate Family-in-Environment Practice Perspective:  To produce advanced generalist practitioners with a knowledge concentration in family in environment who are able to respond with multi-level practice to the needs of the institution of the family so that its members realize their fullest potential for personal fulfillment and social contribution.

Goal 6—Gain Specialized Knowledge: To promote an effective, efficient and humane social service delivery network in the program service area through community need-driven, specialized knowledge.

Goal 7—Conduct Autonomous Practice: To graduate autonomous practitioners with a clear professional identity, including commitment to the NASW Code of Ethics and identified needs for future professional growth. 


Graduate Competencies

Social workers serve as representatives of the profession, its mission, and its core values.  They know the profession’s history.  Social workers commit themselves to the profession’s enhancement and to their own professional conduct and growth. 

Family-centered social workers embrace their self-definition as members of the social work profession in interaction with others.  They articulate the profession’s philosophy and purpose in two specific contexts:  1) the context of their own role in the agency context, and 2) the context of their own role as agency representative in the community.  In addition, their plans for professional growth are developed within the context of the agency and its constituents.  Supervision is sought independently as needed.

Social workers have an obligation to conduct themselves ethically and to engage in ethical decision-making.  Social workers are knowledgeable about the value base of the profession, its ethical standards, and relevant law.       

Family-centered social workers manage increasingly complex ethical decision-making through conscious use of self and self-initiated consultation.  They conduct ethical decision-making in the context of current practice in the agency and community setting with attention to its impact on families.

Social workers are knowledgeable about the principles of logic, scientific inquiry, and reasoned discernment.  They use critical thinking augmented by creativity and curiosity.  Critical thinking also requires the synthesis and communication of relevant information. 

Family-centered social workers question the ethical and practical implications of traditional definitions of family.  They demonstrate an ability to articulate an inclusive definition of family built on the premise that no single family form is by its nature superior to others.  They critically analyze policies and practices that affect family members. 

Social workers understand how diversity characterizes and shapes the human experience and is critical to the formation of identity.  The dimensions of diversity are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors including age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, immigration status, political ideology, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.  Social workers appreciate that, as a consequence of difference, a person’s life experiences may include oppression, poverty, marginalization, and alienation as well as privilege, power and acclaim. 

Employ self-awareness to understand and articulate the strengths inherent in diversity (EP 2.1.4S).  (Program Specific Supplement) 

Ever cognizant of its diverse geographic service area, the Kutztown University Social Work Program places an emphasis on working with diverse client systems.  Graduates are comfortable enough with their own elements of diversity to recognize the strengths of diversity in others.  They understand that those elements of diversity that often result in oppression, poverty and marginalization are likely to include strengths that may be utilized to enhance individual and system functioning.

Family-centered social workers continuously refine the professional use of self through learning about diverse family forms and their inherent strengths.  They explore their own definition of family and their own family history to develop the self-awareness that allows them to understand their own values and biases. 

Each person, regardless of position in society, has basic human rights, such as freedom, safety, privacy, and adequate standard of living, health care, and education.  Social workers recognize the global interconnections of oppression and are knowledgeable about theories of justice and strategies to promote human and civil rights.  Social work incorporates social justice practices in organizations, institutions, and society to ensure that these basic human rights are distributed equitably and without prejudice. 

Family-centered social workers consider forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination as they impact the family and develop and carry out strategies for change that advance social and economic justice for all families. They analyze the impact of social policies on client systems, workers and agencies.  They demonstrate skills for influencing policy formation and change toward promoting family well-being.  Due to the Kutztown University Social Work program mission to respond to the needs of its immediate community, graduates promote an effective, efficient and humane social service delivery network in the program service area through community need-driven, specialized knowledge.

Social workers use practice experience to inform research, employ evidence-based interventions, evaluate their own practice, and use research findings to improve practice, policy, and social service delivery.  Social workers comprehend quantitative and qualitative research and understand scientific and ethical approaches to building knowledge. 

Advanced generalist, family-centered practitioners refine, evaluate and advance social work knowledge, service provision and the profession using a critical evaluation of scientific literature and systematic practice evaluation.  They bring a family-in-environment perspective to multi-level practice-based research. Viewing family as the pivotal social institution, they develop research questions with a full consideration of the potential for family impact.  They complete independent evaluations of programs and multi-level practice interventions from a family-centered perspective. 

Social workers are knowledgeable about human behavior across the life course; the range of social systems in which people live; and the ways social systems promote or deter people in maintaining or achieving health and well-being.  Social workers apply theories and knowledge from the liberal arts to understand biological, social, cultural, psychological, and spiritual development. 

Family-centered practitioners exhibit a knowledge concentration in the practice perspective family-in-environment.  They respond with multi-level practice to the needs of the institution of the family so that its members realize their fullest potential for personal fulfillment and social contribution.  These practitioners understand the family to be a pivotal social institution.  They integrate knowledge from generalist social work practice and the liberal arts and sciences with theories of family functioning and family-centered analyses of social welfare policy and social work practice research.  In addition, they develop specialized knowledge consistent with individual and agency goals. 

Social work practitioners understand that policy affects service delivery, and they actively engage in policy practice.  Social workers know the history and current structures of social policies and services; the role of policy in service delivery; and the role of practice in policy development. 

Family-centered practitioners function autonomously within the structure of organizations and service delivery systems and seek necessary organizational level change.  They analyze the impact of social policies on families, client systems, workers, and agencies.  In response, they influence policy formation and change toward promoting family well-being. 


Social workers are informed, resourceful, and proactive in responding to evolving organizational, community, and societal contexts at all levels of practice.  Social workers recognize that the context of practice is dynamic, and use knowledge and skill to respond proactively. 

Family-centered social workers promote an effective, efficient and human social service delivery network through community need-driven specialized knowledge.  They respond to the dynamic nature of population and science through family-centered service grounded in their agency’s mission. 

                Professional practice involves the dynamic and interactive processes of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation at multiple levels.  Social workers have the knowledge and skills to practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.  Practice knowledge includes identifying, analyzing, and implementing evidence-based interventions designed to achieve client goals, using research and technological advanced; evaluating program outcomes and practice effectiveness; developing, analyzing, advocating, and providing leadership for policies and services; and promoting social and economic justice.

            Engagement (EP 2.1.10[a]).

                Social workers substantively and affectively prepare for action with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities; use empathy and other interpersonal skills; and develop a mutually agreed-on focus of work and desired outcomes.

Family-centered social workers recognize the multi-faceted variety of family forms.  They are aware that individuals and policy makers often hold the preconception that “family” only means persons related by marriage or blood ties. 

Social workers collect, organize, and interpret client data; assess client strengths and limitations; develop mutually agreed-on intervention goals and objectives; and select appropriate intervention strategies.

Family-centered practitioners analyze complex problems and propose multi-level, family-centered solutions. 

Social workers initiate actions to achieve organizational goals; implement prevention interventions that enhance client capacities; help clients resolve problems; negotiate, mediate, and advocate for clients; and facilitate transitions and endings.

Advanced practitioners conduct multi-level intervention in the context of agency function, worker role and family impact.  Intervention is informed by the family-in-environment perspective and based in an eclectic, empirically evaluated knowledge base. 


                Social workers critically analyze, monitor, and evaluate interventions.

Advanced practitioners articulate the evidence-based practice principles and/or theoretical framework for family-centered interventions; and develop and carry out independent, systematic evaluations of practice.


Contact Info: 
Social Work Department
Old Main 27
Kutztown, PA 19530
Tel. (610) 683 4235
Fax (610) 683-4383

Dr. John Vafeas
Department Chair
E-Mail:  vafeas@kutztown.edu

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