Penn State minor prepares students to work with children

Students planning careers in fields such as counseling, law enforcement, health care, research, social work, education, forensic sciences, or child welfare will benefit from Penn State's Child Maltreatment and Advocacy Studies minor.  Credit: shironosov/iStock.comAll Rights Reserved.

Students in human development and family studies, biobehavioral health, education, nursing, psychology, and other degree programs are benefiting from a minor that delivers critical training to those who want to work with children.

Penn State’s undergraduate education minor in Child Maltreatment and Advocacy Studies (CMAS) is designed to give students a broad overview of child protection and advocacy, including the detection, treatment, and prevention of child maltreatment.

According to Chad Shenk, associate professor of human development and family studies and faculty member of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, CMAS is an interdisciplinary minor that gives Penn State students majoring in any discipline the resources they need to understand the issues surrounding child protection and well-being. “Students who are planning careers that have any direct involvement with children, such as counseling, law enforcement, health care, research, social work, education, forensic sciences, or child welfare will certainly benefit from the CMAS minor.”

Students successfully completing the minor also receive the CAST (Child Advocacy Studies) Certification. CAST is a widely recognized certificate that helps enhance competitiveness for entry-level jobs within child welfare agencies and it is beneficial when applying to a multitude of graduate programs.

The CMAS minor was officially established in the spring of 2016 after the successful offering of its prerequisite course, CMAS 258 - Introduction to Child Maltreatment and Advocacy Studies. According to Shenk, the course provides an overview of the epidemiology of child maltreatment, methods of recognizing and reporting it, and its long-term impact on public health. “Interest in the CMAS minor has grown rapidly since 2016, with almost 100 students currently enrolled in the minor. As of this year, 35 students have graduated with the minor,” he said.

One reason for the growing interest in the CMAS minor is that faculty and instructors comprise an interdisciplinary team that brings diverse, real-world experiences to classroom. “Several CMAS faculty and instructors have a background in the child protection service field while others are nationally recognized researchers,” said Shenk. “Because both the instructors and students come from varied backgrounds and experiences, classroom discussions are both engaging and educational for all students.”

Shenk helped to develop the CMAS minor, designing and teaching two of the four required courses, CMAS 258 and CMAS 465 - Child Maltreatment Prevention and Treatment. He was recently awarded a Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Health and Human Development for his work in developing courses for the minor.  The other two required courses in the minor are CMAS 466 – Systems and Community Responses, and CMAS 493 – Capstone Experience.

CMAS 493 requires an internship which can be completed in an already established partnership, through a research project on campus, or students can design their own. “Several students have worked in the NIH Capstone Center for Healthy Children research project here at Penn State to meet the requirements of the internship,” Shenk explained. “Other students have completed their internships in the service field at facilities such as Centre County Children and Youth Services, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Centre County, and the Transforming the Lives of Children Research and Treatment Center at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, which provides mental health interventions for children and families dealing with child maltreatment.”

The minor is open to any Penn State student who is enrolled at the University Park campus and who has declared a major field of study. For more information, go to the CMAS Minor page or contact Cheri McConnell, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network Education coordinator, at

The Child Maltreatment Solutions Network advances Penn State’s academic mission of teaching, research, and engagement in the area of child maltreatment. It is part of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State.

Last Updated December 05, 2018