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Forensic Social Work Concentration

Forensic social workers perform a vital public service in guiding their clients through the daunting and ever-changing legal system. These professionals possess a firm grasp of the civil, criminal and juvenile justice systems, along with a profound understanding of how socioeconomic, cultural, religious, and other aspects of their clients’ lives may impact access to legal services.

To meet a growing national interest in forensics (the application of physical science, mental health, technology and the legal system) and a growing recognition of the complex interplay between social, clinical, and legal services, the Department of Social Work offers a Forensics Social Work concentration within the 60-credit Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) program.

As a graduate of the Master of Social Work Program with the concentration in Forensic Social Work, you will be exceptionally prepared to apply the principles of social work to the legal system, including applicable local, state and federal laws; civil and criminal courts and the juvenile justice system; law enforcement agencies; and correctional facilities. Your clients may be children or adults, individuals or families, organizations or communities. Their legal difficulties may involve child custody and parental rights issues due to domestic violence and neglect and crimes relating to mental illness and substance abuse. They may face arrest and incarceration, be imprisoned or hospitalized, or be on probation or parole.

The Forensic Social Work concentration prepares you to serve all of these populations, by identifying societal issues and their impact on your clients; screening, assessing and counseling your clients; planning and implementing interventions; making client referrals; and otherwise serving as effective advocates for diverse and at-risk clients, who may range from individual children or adults to organizations or communities.

By taking one additional course students will have the option of completing a New York State Advanced Certificate in Forensic Social Work while earning their MSW Degree. Please click on the link for more information.

Course Requirements

Students in the Forensics Social Work concentration will take the following four courses in the second year of the 2-year M.S.W. program. They will also be placed in an internship in the field for a total of 600 hours per year (3 days a week in the fall and spring semester). A total of 1,000 hours is required for the first and second year combined.

Forensic Social Work and the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems (3 credits)

The course provides an overview of the specialty of forensic social work and its interface with the criminal justice system, from arrest to sentencing and conviction. Legal and ethical aspects of professional practice, including issues associated with competency of the accused as well as the preparation of the presentence forensic evaluation. The debate regarding punishment versus rehabilitation is explored along with a multi-systemic perspective on the causes and prevention of crime and juvenile misconduct. Their interface with sexual, religious, racial and other sub-group involvement will also be discussed and realized.

Interviewing, Evaluating and Offering Treatment as a Forensic Social Worker (3 credits)

The clinical overview leading to an accurate understanding of the underpinnings of the pathology which led to the involvement in the judicial system is a critical part to the successful practice of forensic social work. This course scrutinizes this vital component of the forensic social work process. The course also focuses on separating the various components associated with the forensic social work role, e.g. tasks and potential ethical conflicts. The principles of generalist and clinical practice are applied to the assessment and treatment of individuals charged with a range of criminal and juvenile offenses with special attention to the specific issues associated with sentencing, diagnosis, incarceration, and release. Macro tasks related to mediating the needs of individuals and the purposes of institutions are also addressed.

Forensic Social Work with Drug and Alcohol Populations in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems (3 credits)

The course focuses on the role of the Forensic social worker in drug and alcohol related treatment and crime. Heroin, cocaine, marijuana, prescription drugs, “club drugs” (i.e. MDMA, etc.), and alcohol will be placed under a clinical microscope. Different drugs are sought by different populations of people which generally lead to different types of criminal activity. The impact of drug and alcohol abusing offenders’ behavior on their children will also be explored. The legal and ethical issues associated with the forensic social work population are explored. Attention is focused on the relationship and potential role conflicts between social work practice and 12 step self-help programs.

Forensic Social Work and Domestic Violence – Legal, Cultural, Ethnic and Religious Issues in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems (3 credits)

The course focuses on the role of the forensic social worker in understanding, assessing, preventing, and managing domestic violence. The cyclical nature of domestic violence and its association with alcohol and substance abuse is addressed with special attention to the needs of adult children of alcoholics who often perpetuate a pattern of violent behavior which leads to intergenerational involvement with criminal and juvenile justice systems. The course incorporates a multi-systemic perspective with an emphasis on assessing and treating the perpetrator, as well as the victims of domestic violence and also focuses on the forensic social worker’s role in impacting the institutions associated with the efforts to reduce domestic violence.

Other Requirements

Students must also complete a capstone project, as part of the M.S.W. program requirements.

Program Goals

Graduates of the Forensic Social Work concentration will be prepared to:

  • Practice in various capacities within law enforcement, courts, correctional facilities, mental health hospitals, victim assistance programs and the juvenile justice system.
  • Work with various populations, including those affected by child-custody issues involving separation, divorce, neglect and termination of parental rights; domestic violence; mental incapacity and criminal and juvenile justice systems.
  • Provide research or testimony in civil court cases and legal proceedings.

Long Island University’s Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) Program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and offers four other specializations: Gerontology (long-term care administration or senior community service), Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Non-Profit Management or Child and Family Welfare. The program is offered collaboratively between LIU Brooklyn and LIU Post (Brookville), with courses available at both locations. Students may complete the M.S.W. at either campus.

Students who have successfully completed foundation coursework as part of an accredited baccalaureate program may be eligible for Advanced Standing status in compliance with the Council on Social Work Education’s Advanced Standing guidelines. Students are not expected to repeat coursework already covered in an accredited social work program, but only those courses in which the student received a “B” or better will be accepted for credit. Up to one full year of credit may be accepted.