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MSW Graduate Competencies

Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior

Social workers understand the value base of the profession and its ethical standards, as well as relevant laws and regulations that may impact practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Social workers understand frameworks of ethical decision-making and how to apply principles of critical thinking to those frameworks in practice, research, and policy arenas. Social workers recognize personal values and the distinction between personal and professional values. They also understand how their personal experiences and affective reactions influence their professional judgment and behavior. Social workers understand the profession's history, its mission, and the roles and responsibilities of the profession. Social Workers also understand the role of other professions when engaged in inter-professional teams. Social workers recognize the importance of life-long learning and are committed to continually updating their skills to ensure they are relevant and effective. Social workers also understand emerging forms of technology and the ethical use of technology in social work practice.

Family-centered social workers embrace the identity of the social worker who works under the Family-in-Environment perspective and the guidelines of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. They articulate the profession's philosophy and purpose in two specific contexts:  1) the context of their own role in the agency, and 2) their own role as agency representatives in the community consistent with the profession's history and mission.  They keep aware of the laws and regulations that impact families on multiple levels.  They 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 relative to practice, research and policy with attention to its impact on families. Their plans for professional growth are developed within the context of the agency and its constituents.  Supervision is sought independently as needed.

Competency 2: Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice

Social workers understand how diversity and difference characterize and shape the human experience and are critical to the formation of identity. The dimensions of diversity are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors including but not limited to age, class, color, culture, disability and ability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, immigration status, marital status, political ideology, race, religion/spirituality, sex, sexual orientation, and tribal sovereign status. Social workers understand 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. Social workers also understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and recognize the extent to which a culture's structures and values, including social, economic, political, and cultural exclusions, may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create privilege and power.

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.  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. 

Competency 3: Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice

Social workers understand that every person regardless of position in society has fundamental human rights such as freedom, safety, privacy, an adequate standard of living, health care, and education. Social workers understand the global interconnections of oppression and human rights violations, and are knowledgeable about theories of human need and social justice and strategies to promote social and economic justice and human rights. Social workers understand strategies designed to eliminate oppressive structural barriers to ensure that social goods, rights, and responsibilities are distributed equitably and that civil, political, environmental, economic, social, and cultural human rights are protected.

Family-centered social workers understand that families share the same rights as their constituent members.  They 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 local and global. These workers 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.

Competency 4: Engage In Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice

Social workers understand quantitative and qualitative research methods and their respective roles in advancing a science of social work and in evaluating their practice. Social workers know the principles of logic, scientific inquiry, and culturally informed and ethical approaches to building knowledge. Social workers understand that evidence that informs practice derives from multi-disciplinary sources and multiple ways of knowing. They also understand the processes for translating research findings into effective practice.

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. 

Competency 5: Engage in Policy Practice

Social workers understand that human rights and social justice, as well as social welfare and services, are mediated by policy and its implementation at the federal, state, and local levels. Social workers understand 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. Social workers understand their role in policy development and implementation within their practice settings at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels and they actively engage in policy practice to effect change within those settings. Social workers recognize and understand the historical, social, cultural, economic, organizational, environmental, and global influences that affect social policy. They are also knowledgeable about policy formulation, analysis, implementation, and evaluation.

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.  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. 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. 

Competency 6: Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Social workers understand that engagement is an ongoing component of the dynamic and interactive process of social work practice with, and on behalf of, diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers value the importance of human relationships. Social workers understand theories of human behavior and the social environment, and critically evaluate and apply this knowledge to facilitate engagement with clients and constituencies, including individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers understand strategies to engage diverse clients and constituencies to advance practice effectiveness.

Family-centered practitioners exhibit a knowledge concentration in the practice perspective family-in-environment.  Placing a high value on relationship, they recognize the multi-faceted variety of family forms knowing that individuals and policy makers often hold the preconception that "family" only means persons related by marriage or blood ties.  This informs engagement strategies that are ongoing, dynamic and interactive on multiple levels.  Collaborate with supervisors to identify areas of specialized study that intersect individual learning goals and agency needs. 

Competency 7: Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Social workers understand that assessment is an ongoing component of the dynamic and interactive process of social work practice with, and on behalf of, diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers understand theories of human behavior and the social environment, and critically evaluate and apply this knowledge in the assessment of diverse clients and constituencies, including individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers understand methods of assessment with diverse clients and constituencies to advance practice effectiveness. Social workers recognize the implications of the larger practice context in the assessment process and value the importance of inter-professional collaboration in this process. Social workers understand how their personal experiences and affective reactions may affect their assessment and decision-making.

Family-centered practitioners understand that assessment is an ongoing process used to analyze complex problems and propose multi-level, family-centered solutions. 

Competency 8: Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Social workers understand that intervention is an ongoing component of the dynamic and interactive process of social work practice with, and on behalf of, diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are knowledgeable about evidence-informed interventions to achieve the goals of clients and constituencies, including individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers understand theories of human behavior and the social environment, and critically evaluate and apply this knowledge to effectively intervene with clients and constituencies. Social workers understand methods of identifying, analyzing and implementing evidence-informed interventions to achieve client and constituency goals. Social workers value the importance of interprofessional teamwork and communication in interventions, recognizing that beneficial outcomes may require interdisciplinary, interprofessional, and inter-organizational collaboration.

Family-centered social workers 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.  Family-centered 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. 

Competency 9: Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Social workers understand that evaluation is an ongoing component of the dynamic and interactive process of social work practice with, and on behalf of, diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities. Social workers recognize the importance of evaluating processes and outcomes to advance practice, policy, and service delivery effectiveness. Social workers understand theories of human behavior and the social environment, and critically evaluate and apply this knowledge in evaluating outcomes. Social workers understand qualitative and quantitative methods for evaluating outcomes and practice effectiveness.

Family-centered social workers see evaluation as an ongoing component of practice with and on behalf of families.  They recognize the importance of evaluation to the advancement of family-centered practice, policy, and service delivery effectiveness.  They apply the Family-in-Environment perspective to critically evaluate and apply this knowledge in evaluating outcomes using both qualitative and quantitative methods. 

Updated to comply with the 2015 EPAS Competencies as outlined by the Council on Social Work Education