Social Work Education

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  • 1.  Faith-Based Practicum Placements

    Posted Nov 13, 2023 18:20

    Hello! My name is Jen Barile, and I am an Assistant Director of Field Education at the University of Montana. We had an issue come up recently where one of our students wanted to complete their practicum placement at a faith-based organization, but the organization would not sign our Affiliation Agreement which requires agencies to offer gender-affirming and LGBTQ+ affirming care to clients. I don't think CSWE offers any specific guidance on this, so I wanted to see if others have run into issues where agency values and policies may conflict with social work and university values/policies around discrimination and anti-oppression. Do any of your schools have policies around students working at faith-based agencies? We support many faith-based placements, but once in a while there is a conflict in values, and I'm curious how others are navigating this. We want to support students who would like to work within their faith background, but we also have a commitment to our professional values and ethics, and it is conflict if any agency discriminates against certain groups of people. I'd love to hear others' thoughts! Thank you!


    Jen Barile
    Assistant Director of Field Education
    University of Montana
    Missoula MT

  • 2.  RE: Faith-Based Practicum Placements

    Posted Nov 14, 2023 09:17

    Hi Jen, that's a great question. We support students who want to work within their faith and express interest in agencies that have a faith-based mission. Having said that, we require agencies to enter into an affiliation agreement. If an agency refuses to (particularly on the basis that you are referring to) we would not allow for that placement. I would explain this clearly to the student and while I would not blame, or disparage, the agency I would discuss why providing gender-affirming care and affirming care to LGBTQ+ clients is non-negotiable within our professional ethics and values. I would also explore (if the student was adamant about a placement in a religiously based setting) other options - perhaps agencies that are faith-based and agreed to this policy.

    Second, we have some language within our internship manual that addresses some of this (though maybe not as strictly as we could): 

    The Internship Field Director recognizes how the nation's social welfare has benefited from agencies guided by special religious and moral commitments. Therefore, placements in these agencies are sought as in all others. In preparing students for such placements, faculty instruction includes: (1) the general impact of religious and moral views on the environment and programs, (2) mission expectations of agency policies, stemming from these views, concerning student behavior and (3) the absolute requirement that students and agencies remain tolerant of client belief and practice systems. 

    We have had some instances where agencies have asked students to sign moral and religious/faith based agreements (i.e. codes of conduct). I have had to discuss concerns with several agencies and at this point we do not use them as the document they ask the student to sign does not comport with social work values.

    Dana Holcomb, DSW, LMSW-Clinical
    Associate Professor and Director of Field
    Ferris State University
    Big Rapids, MI 49307

  • 3.  RE: Faith-Based Practicum Placements

    Posted Nov 14, 2023 10:47


    We had this same issue a few years ago and like Dana we did not enter into an agreement with them. We do have other faith-based agencies that have signed the agreement and we work with them, without any problems.

    Good luck with this.  Lynn

    D. Lynn Jackson, Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW, FNAP (she/her)                                                                         

    Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives

    Professor of Professional Practice/Director of Field Education

    TCU Department of Social Work

    TCU Box 298750

    Fort Worth, TX 76129

    (817) 257-5575

    Lynn Jackson
    Director of Field Education
    TCU Social Work
    Ft Worth TX