Erikson launches two new MSW concentrations

Social work students can now gain specialized knowledge in children’s law and policy and infant/early childhood mental health.

Two new concentrations within Erikson Institute’s Master of Social Work program will provide opportunities for future social work leaders to gain a greater understanding of how the law, legal systems, and policy impact children and families, and to learn how to address the mental health needs of infants, toddlers, and young children.

The new Children’s Law and Policy concentration will prepare MSW students for jobs that give them opportunities to influence and advocate for public policies benefitting children and families. Potential career paths include working within the child welfare system and community organizations.

“This is the only program in the nation that prepares social work professionals to shape laws and policies in ways that are based on deep knowledge about how children develop,” says Colette Davison, PhD, dean of students at Erikson. “If you are influencing policies that impact children and families, it is important that you understand developmental needs so that the policies are more informed, more equitable, and more likely to be effective.”

The concentration builds on our existing partnership with Loyola University Chicago’s Civitas ChildLaw Center, with which we also offer the Master of Science in Child Development/Master of Jurisprudence in Children’s Law and Policy dual degree as well as a Children’s Law and Policy specialization within our Master of Science in Child Development program.

The new Children’s Law and Policy concentration aligns with our strategic goal of influencing public policy in a way that ensures all children have equal opportunities to realize their full potential. Today, there is a growing need for professionals who work with and on behalf of children and to understand how different systems impact the families they serve. Through this new MSW concentration, we help prepare such professionals to advocate for and inform policies that support just outcomes for children and families.

The new Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health concentration is the only MSW concentration in the nation focused on the mental, emotional, physical development, and health needs of young children prenatally to 5 years old, and it builds on our decades of expertise and leadership in the field of infant and early childhood mental health.

Students pursuing the concentration will be able to gain specialized knowledge in infant and early childhood mental health within the MSW program. Previously, they would have had to complete their MSW degree and then return to Erikson for additional course work to earn their infant mental health certificate. Now, students can take such coursework concurrently while fulfilling their MSW degree requirements.

This concentration will equip students with the latest in conceptual and theoretical understanding of infant and early childhood mental health as well as evidence-based skills and methods that strengthen the mental health well-being of infants and young children, emphasizing their relationships with parents, relatives, and other adult caregivers. Students also will learn about how children’s homes, neighborhoods, and other physical environments provide support for their well-being or create risk factors.

Social workers are often on the front lines of infant and early childhood mental health services. Graduates of this concentration can position themselves to consult with child care programs to promote environments that support social-emotional well-being, provide developmental assessments and therapy services for young children in foster care, and work with families in the early intervention system.

“Infants, toddlers, and young children have a different set of developmental needs before they enter school, and there is a need for clinicians and practitioners who understand how to address those needs,” says Professor Nucha Isarowong, PhD, an infant mental health expert who teaches courses in our MSW program.

Both the Children’s Law and Policy and Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health concentrations can be completed in three years and require three courses in addition to the core MSW curriculum. Students also will complete a specialized concentration field placement that provides a hands-on, supervised experience in children’s law and policy or infant and early childhood mental health.