- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) - The University of North Dakota is taking steps to help address an expected increase in demand for social workers, with a new degree program and a collaboration with an American Indian tribe.

UND in the fall will begin offering an online bachelor’s degree program in social work. The university cites a U.S. Labor Department study that demand for social workers will grow 19 percent by 2022, with the growth in rural areas potentially higher.

“There has been a serious shortage of child welfare social workers in rural communities. The (program) is a way to help address that shortage,” said Shari Doe, director of children and family services for the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

The online degree is for people with undergraduate college credits, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in another field such as psychology.

It includes online, semester-based courses, a 450-hour field placement in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana or the Canadian province of Manitoba, and a four-day required visit to UND’s campus in Grand Forks.

UND also will be working with a Cankdeska Cikana Community College on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, with faculty teaching several of the students there as they work toward their degrees.

The Spirit Lake tribe has been overhauling its child protection systems since it came under fire in 2012 from federal officials for perceived lapses in protecting vulnerable children.

“The Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services program and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Social Services both need trained tribal members to handle the existing workload, particularly for child services,” College President Cynthia Lindquist said.

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