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Forensic Social Work

6 core (required) credit hours

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  • Describe the criminal and juvenile justice systems, their purpose, and the population they serve.
  • Explore the ethical dilemmas inherent in forensic social work. For example, our ethical obligation to advocate for a client’s self-determination contrasted with the needs of the community for safety, order, and justice.
  • Develop competencies in evidence-based practice models and critically evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs for forensic clients, victims of crime, and families.
  • Describe the distinct psychosocial needs of forensic clients and their relationship to justice systems.
  • Understand how individual and structural risk and protective factors lead to (or insulate from) antisocial trajectories (micro, mezzo, and macro) and how to develop prevention and intervention strategies to improve outcomes.
  • Highlight the science of correctional intervention and desistance by applying the principles of evidence-based practice and restorative justice in treatment, program development, and evaluation.
  • Practice specific motivational interviewing strategies designed for forensic clients.
  • Identify factors that account for the over-representation of people of color, the perception of racial bias, and social class distinctions within the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
  • Define and describe the impact of common policy practices such as racial profiling and bootstrapping in the sentencing, treatment, and administration of the criminal justice system.
  • Apply evidence-based assessment, planning, interventions, and evaluation strategies with individuals, groups, and communities.
  • Apply practical research skills for the evaluation of individual client interventions and program accountability.
  • Utilize risk assessment instruments with forensic clients and trauma assessment with victims of crime including the appropriate use of and limitations of psychometric and risk assessment tools.
  • Demonstrate respect for the dignity and worth of forensic clients and victims of crime.
  • Apply the NASW Code of Ethics to practice in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
  • Develop competencies and skills in working within the courts and judicial system including testifying in court and collaborating with other professionals.


  • Students must take one additional Practice class outside their primary Area of Focus (AOF) to meet graduation requirements. For example, if Forensic Social Work is the student’s primary AOF, they would be required to take an additional Practice course in another AOF such as Aging in Social Work, Child Welfare in Social Work, Global Social Work, Health in Social Work, Mental Health in Social Work, or Substance Use in Social Work.
  • The Forensic Social Work AOF is not available to students in the Three-Year or Online Programs.
  • Students may take up to 16 credit hours in any one semester without requiring pre-approval from the MSW Program Director.
  • Students in the Advanced Standing program must complete a minimum of 45 credit hours.
  • Students in the two-year program must complete a minimum of 60 credit hours.
  • Students must earn a passing grade of C+ or better.
  • Students must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in order to be in good academic standing.

Types of Practicum Placements:
Mental health programs serving abused/neglected children and their families, programs serving children in foster care, adoptions services, schools.

Last Updated: 1/31/23