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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Joanne Sobeck

Second Advisor

Mark Luborsky


Background: This dissertation explores how the Wayne Together Collaborative (WTC) program, an education program aimed at preparing MSW students to practice in child welfare, also creates changes and conflicts for students in their wider lives. These changes and conflicts are unintended consequences of strategies used in the WTC program to help students persevere in difficult practice contexts. Methods: An ethnographic study was conducted following the 2018-2019 WTC cohort during and after the program. In-depth student interviews were conducted to describe transformations in ideals, concerns, and identities and their consequences. In-depth interviews with field liaisons and course instructors explored WTC expectations, values, and beliefs promoted in program structures and pedagogical techniques. Participant observation of meetings and courses discovered how expectations, values, and beliefs translated into daily discussions and pedagogical techniques. Document analysis identified historical, structural, and political factors informing WTC program outcomes, practices, and techniques. Results: A range of factors were identified as contributing to ways the WTC program remade students’ broader social relationships and identities. New and existing tensions emerged between students and their families as they began to promote child welfare parenting standards and struggled with mandatory reporting requirements. Some students reported intervening in potential child maltreatment in the community. Transformations are driven and intensified through promoting child welfare work as a way of life in program activities, classroom-based case study learning, process recordings, and reflection papers. Promoting child welfare work as a way of life emerged as an informal strategy in the WTC program to help students endure child welfare positions defined by risks of criminal prosecution, intense oversight and auditing stemming from Michigan’s child welfare reform, and poor worker support. Discussion: Promoting child welfare work as a way of life emerged in the WTC program as a strategy to promote retention among students without addressing historical, structural, and political factors driving high turnover rates in Michigan’s child welfare system. Students increasingly integrated child welfare expectations into personal life, resulting in tensions and conflicts outside of professional contexts. Findings highlight the importance of addressing the impacts of child welfare work on personal life in education curricula and training.

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