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UNC's Family and Children's Resource Program bolsters social work statewide

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The UNC School of Social Work Tate-Turner-Kuralt building, captured on Feb. 13, 2023.

The UNC School of Social Work’s Family and Children’s Resource Program (FCRP) is supporting social workers beyond the UNC community. 

Established in the early 1990s, FCRP encourages social work organizations to increase their positive impact on the families and communities they serve. The program offers training courses and practice-improvement coaching for social workers and facilitates conversations about challenges in the field. 

“I think overall we're really wanting to support a more resilient human services workforce,” Laura Phipps, FCRP director, said. “That's our biggest goal. Because I just feel like there's so little support for the people doing the hardest jobs right now.” 

FCRP delivers resources to social work organizations that request their assistance. They offer both in-person and online courses for human services professionals, parents, educators and others taught by experienced trainers and experts. The training covers topics like behavior management, substance use and more. 

“We rely on feedback from the frontline to us to say what you need. They rely on us to take research information and disseminate it in a way that they can apply it given the resources that they have,” Rodney Little, clinical assistant professor at the School of Social Work and training specialist, said. “So, it's definitely this constant dialogue back and forth that we need to improve the system so families benefit from it and don't get stuck in the system.” 

As a former frontline social worker, Little enjoys maintaining the positive impact social workers can have on children and families.

FCRP partners with organizations like the Family Focused Treatment Association and the Foster Family Alliance of North Carolina to best serve children and families across the state through the social workers they train.  

“The participants we train are the people that touch the families, not us,” Little said. “So, it's our responsibility to make sure that the information we give them is going to help change lives because we don't get that opportunity.”

The resource program aims to provide social workers with the tools they need to properly serve their communities. They value keeping social workers "trauma-informed" and improving their practices.

“I feel like this is a very necessary tool for social workers to be current on situations, because things are actively changing society,” Ericka Hurt, a graduate student and student ambassador at the School of Social Work, said. “So, we have to keep up with it in order to provide the best level of care to our clients.”

She said social workers are continually seeking out ways to further educate themselves and improve their practice to avoid causing people further trauma or harm in their work. She believes many people forget how much responsibility social workers have and that organizations like FCRP are supportive and beneficial. 

The Child Welfare League of America reports that job turnover is a serious concern for child welfare professionals. The median annual turnover rate for frontline social workers was between 23 and 60 percent across public and private agencies in 2022. These turnover challenges continue to escalate as a result of the pandemic. 

FCRP plans to make every effort to ease this issue so social workers can focus on learning and their growth as a professional. 

“I've just never seen it like this in my career, where people seem so at the breaking point," Phipps said. "And so it's really hard to get people to focus on training, which we know and support them, because that is, understandably, not a crisis-level kind of thing."

Throughout the upcoming year, Phipps said FCRP is committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in their coaching and practices, as well as within the organization. The program also plans to design tools and strategies that allow it to assist other North Carolina counties and organizations that might be struggling to provide workforce aid. 

“We felt like we really needed to look internally at: How are we serving the state? Are we serving the state equitably?” Phipps said. “Are we really representing diverse voices? Are we bringing in the lived experience of people who are in the system?” 

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Emily Chambliss

Emily Chambliss is a 2023-24 assistant copy editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a staffer on the copy and university desks. Emily is a sophomore pursuing a major in journalism with a minor in philosophy, politics and economics.