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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU to offer new child advocacy studies minor to undergraduates

Last year, the State of New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department received more than 32,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. A new interdisciplinary undergraduate minor at New Mexico State University aims to prepare students to combat such abuse. Students majoring in fields related to child development and education can complete the child advocacy studies (CAST) minor and become better equipped to prevent abuse and intervene in instances in which it is occurring.

The CAST minor is unique in that it is an interdisciplinary minor - a joint effort between the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the College of Health and Social Services, where it will formally be assigned within the School of Social Work.

"We are training undergraduate students through interdisciplinary learning so they will know how future colleagues are being trained and how they think," said Sue Forster-Cox, an associate professor of health science in NMSU's College of Health and Social Services. "Students graduating with the CAST minor will go into their communities with a better skillset to address child abuse and neglect issues."

NMSU will begin offering the CAST minor this summer, and will be one of only a handful of universities nationwide to do so. Undergraduates pursuing degrees in social work, education, nursing, criminal justice, family and child science, Cooperative Extension, sociology, psychology and other disciplines that deal with children may earn the minor after taking 18 hours of approved classwork. Students take three core courses and three elective courses from a list of courses in the minor.

To be accepted into the minor, students must complete an application form and submit their resume, unofficial transcripts, two letters of reference and a personal statement to the CAST steering committee. A cumulative grade point average of 2.75 or higher is required for acceptance. The deadline to apply for the minor for the summer session is June 1.

The work to develop the minor began in summer 2009, when Esther Devall, interim head of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Forster-Cox attended a weeklong seminar at Winona State University in Minnesota, hosted by the National Child Protection Training Center, which developed CAST. According to the center, the mission of the Child Advocacy Studies minor is "to educate professionals who respond to child maltreatment to provide ethically sensitive services and to demonstrate interdisciplinary collaboration as well as competent case management."

Students pursuing the CAST minor at NMSU will have an opportunity to analyze current policy, explore best practice options, learn basic investigation skills, practice forensic interviewing, be trained to advocate for abused and neglected children, dissect cases, debate controversial topics and address other related child maltreatment issues.

"When you think about the diversity of people trained on this campus, a phenomenal number are pursuing an education for careers that work with children and families," said Forster-Cox. "If we're able to train undergraduate students in how to better be attuned to these problems and understand the complexities of abuse and neglect and ultimately prevent it, then these students will make a more significant impact in their jobs and with the families in their communities."

For more information and/or to receive a CAST application, contact Ivan de la Rosa in the School of Social Work at 575-646-1243 or go to http://socialwork.nmsu.edu/degrees-programs/cast/.