By Tony Parra
Eastern New Mexico University officials are working toward accreditation of a social work program, which will enable students to enter the field of social work as licensed professionals.
The social work program is in its second year and according to Allen Stata, director of ENMU’s social work program, it is hoping to offer Instructional Television (ITV) classes to Cannon Air Force Base, Clovis Community College and the other branch campuses by the fall of 2004.
“We’re proud of our social work program,” said Stata, who taught at Grambling University in Louisiana before taking the job at ENMU. “It (social work) is a vast field.”
Stata said ENMU officials are in the process of gaining certification but the process can take years.
“We’ve already put in our application and we are shooting for a class size of 25,” Stata said.
ENMU officials are hoping to gain accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education. According to Stata, social work graduates from an accredited social work program are eligible for state licensure. To graduate from the program, ENMU students must complete 450 internship hours. Once they receive a degree from an accredited university, students are eligible to apply for admission to a masters program with advanced standing, meaning they can complete a two-year masters program by taking courses for only one year.
Don Holden, Roosevelt County Director of the Children Youth and Families Department, and Dolores Penrod, chairwoman of the local Social Work Community Advisory Committee, have been pushing for a social work program at Eastern since 1990.
Holden said only three New Mexico colleges offer state licensure programs: New Mexico State University, New Mexico Highlands University and Western New Mexico University.
“It’s a stressful career,” Holden said. “Social workers will deal with child abuse, neglect. Sometimes it takes a little time to get over things such as sexual abuse cases. They tell children to stay away from strangers, but 80 to 90 percent of sexual abuse cases are by someone they knew.”
Renae Hipp, School Social Worker for Portales Municipal Schools, earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wyoming nine years ago and has been working as a school social worker for seven years. She recently earned her masters at NMSU.
“There were many signs on campus for social workers in New Mexico,” Hipp said while she was attending Wyoming University. “There was a lot of demand for social workers in New Mexico at the time.”
Holden said there are 612 positions for licensed social workers in New Mexico and 58 are vacant. Holden also noted 11 of the openings are in the southeast side of New Mexico, including openings in Portales, Clovis and Tucumcari.
“Our motto is linking schools, families and communities,” Hipp said about the Portales Schools Social Work Program. “We see risk factors in some of the kids. We spend time building a rapport with them. My job is to help kids be able to deal and cope with the reasons they’re receiving special education services.”
Holden and Hipp agree not many people notice the hard work and dedication which goes into social work.
“Social work needs more exposure,” Hipp said.