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Child Welfare. 2013;92(4):31-53.

Challenges to recruit and retain American Indian and Alaskan Natives into social work programs: the impact on the child welfare workforce.


There is a shortage of professionally trained American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) social workers available to provide services including child welfare services to tribal communities. This study used a mixed-model survey design to examine the perceptions of 47 AI/AN BSW and MSW students enrolled in social work programs across the to determine the challenges associated with recruitment and retention. The findings are supported in the literature. Findings indicate that social work academic programs have not made substantial gains in the recruitment and retention of AI/AN students over several decades. Students identified the following seven major barriers to successful recruitment and retention: (1) a lack of AI/AN professors; (2) a shortage of field placement agencies that serve AI/AN clients; (3) conflicts between students' academic obligations and responsibilities to their families and tribal communities; (4) students' feelings of cultural isolation; (5) the need for AI/AN role models and mentors; (6) a lack of understanding by universities of cultural customs and traditional values; and (7) racism. Implications for policy and practice are offered.

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