30.30 Student Interns and Volunteer Programs



As part of many Bachelor degree programs, a student is required to have volunteer service prior to admission.  For example, a Bachelor degree in social work (BSW) typically requires a minimum of one hundred (100) hours of volunteer service prior to admission to the program.  Similarly, other professional human service degree programs require volunteer hours. 

For those students assessing if child welfare or adult services is a field that they may wish to study and eventually work, a successful understanding of the system is necessary.  DCBS wishes to foster the development of possible future child welfare and adult services staff, while at the same time protecting the safety and confidentiality of the children, families and adults with which we work.  Through a centralized process, DCBS will ensure that appropriate candidates are selected to provide volunteer or intern services.

Successful transition into providing direct services in the field of child welfare requires a variety of knowledge and skills that can be fostered prior to ever being employed by the Cabinet’s Department for Community Based Services (DCBS).

Student interns are not only provided an opportunity to acquire hands on knowledge and skills, but an opportunity for the Cabinet to mentor individuals who recognize and share the importance of our mission and who may later choose to join the Cabinet.

A practicum may be granted to graduate and upper class undergraduate students who are:

  • Attending an accredited college or university; and
  • Obtaining a primary degree in social work or a related degree as defined by the Council on Accreditation (COA).  Students in a social work program must be from a college or university whose program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
The Cabinet recognizes five (5)  different types of students seeking a practicum: 

  • CO-OP students; 
  • Public Child Welfare Certification Program (PCWCP);
  • Cabinet employees in the stipend Masters degree program;
  • Cabinet employees who are students seeking a graduate or undergraduate degree in social work; and
  • Graduate or undergraduate students in social work or related field as defined by COA.
Supervision is a vital learning process for all student interns.  After the supervisor has determined that the student intern has the ability to handle routine situations, the intern may be assigned duties similar to regular staff while under direct supervision of the practicum supervisor, provided it is not in conflict with the role of the student intern. Initial contacts with clients by student interns are only made while the student is in the presence of Cabinet staff assigned to work with the student.

The volunteer  program is designed for those who are seeking a degree in social work or other related human service degree.  The volunteer program is not a program for the general public to volunteer their services.


Practice Guidance

  • When a region or county receives a request from a prospective student to provide volunteer or internship services with DCBS Protection and Permanency, the individual is provided an application packet that includes:
    • DPP-098 Student Intern/Volunteer Application;
    • Confidentiality Agreement; and
    • A copy of the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Handbook.
  • The appropriate Division of Service Regions  keeps on file the intern's/volunteer's application, confidentiality agreement, and background checks until the completion of the internship or volunteer period. 
  • Under no circumstances is an intern or volunteer accepted by the region without the approval of their respective Division of Service Regions.
  • The student obtains the required signatures for the learning agreement by all involved parties (student intern, DCBS, faculty advisor, etc.).
  • The learning agreement includes:
    • The length of placement;
    • The geographic area to be served;
    • A written job description developed in conjunction with the intern's faculty supervisor and their onsite supervisor; and
    • The development of an evaluation checklist that is agreed upon by the Cabinet, DCBS, or the service region and college or university, that includes expected goals, outcomes, and learned behaviors to be acquired by the student intern.
  • A copy of the learning agreement is to be maintained on file at the practicum site and is to be available for review by all involved parties.
  • CO-OP students may be assigned, based on knowledge, skills and abilities, the following functions similar to that of a support service aide including, but not limited to:
    • Transportation of children to health related facilities or community resources, or children in the custody of the Cabinet, guardianship clients, wards of the state, or other clients as approved by the SRA or designee;
    • Supportive services to resource families (foster and adoption homes);
    • Supportive services to committed children and families receiving services; or
    • Supportive efforts to the SSW who manages the case.

  • An MSW stipend participant may perform the same job tasks as an employee in a compatible role, and assignments are based on the student intern’s knowledge skills, experience, and abilities.  Based on the practicum experience, the student intern’s role may be expanded to include program areas other than their assigned duties and responsibilities.

  • DCBS staff seeking a Masters degree in social work through the MSW stipend or tuition assistance program may be assigned responsibilities beyond that of a student intern who is not an employee of the Cabinet.

  • Except as permitted for an CO-OP or existing employee, the student intern is not to:
    • Use the names of clients served in oral or written communication except as it pertains to Cabinet business;
    • Assume sole responsibility of casework decisions and responsibilities;
    • Transport a client or child in the legal custody of the Cabinet;
    • Assume sole responsibility for supervision of minor children;
    • Conduct adult or child protective service investigations; or
    • Conduct general adult or alternate care assessments until the student intern has completed training in the program area and only under supervision of the practicum supervisor.

  • The student intern may:
    • As determined by the practicum supervisor, accompany a worker and assist with interviews and other tasks during the course of an investigation to determine:
      • The severity of the allegation;
      • The presence of on-going and serious substance abuse;
      • The occurrence of firearm use or the threat thereof; and
      • The exhibition of hostility toward DCBS staff (including threats or occurrence of assault to person or property); or
    • Conduct research projects initiated by DCBS.
  • If difficulties or problems are encountered during the practicum all parties are to attempt to resolve the issue or problem.  The region should discuss the problem or issue with the university's intern coordinator, and if the issue is unable to be resolved, it may be forwarded through the RTC for discussion with the university consortium.
  • The student, the student’s college or university, or the Cabinet, DCBS, or the service region may terminate the practicum at anytime. If different arrangements for the student intern’s practicum are needed, the person making the arrangements or terminating the practicum is to give reasonable notice of the change of the practicum status unless the safety of children or families is involved.

  • The following degrees are considered generally accepted as appropriate educational experience for human services professionals.  These degrees require one (1) academic year of practicum experience as part of the educational training.  Please refer to this list when determining eligibility for TCM entries and COA accepted degrees:
      • Social work;
      • Psychology;
      • Psychiatric nursing;
      • Psychiatry;
      • Mental health counseling;
      • Rehabilitation counseling;
      • Pastoral counseling;
      • Marriage and family therapy;
      • Human services;
    • Please note that due to the vast number of university programs, other related degrees may be applicable


  • Prior to accepting any  intern,  the region ensures that a memorandum of understanding (MOU)  exists between the Cabinet and the university, college,  as outlined in the MOU Agreements Listing. 
  • If an MOU  does not exist with the universiy, or college,  the region instructs the university  to contact the Division of Service Regions (502-564-7463) if it wishes to develop an MOU.
  • The Cabinet, DCBS and the service region follow the requirements set forth in the MOU.
  • To understand the requirements set forth in the MOU, the region reviews the MOU Boilerplate.
  • The SRA or designee interviews the candidate and determines the student's appropriateness as a student intern,  or student volunteer.
  • If the applicant is deemed acceptable, the regional office submits the completed application packet from the prospective intern/volunteer to the:

    Division of Service Regions
    275 E. Main, 3C-A
    Frankfort, KY 40621
  • The region's personnel liaison submits to OHRM a request for an AOC check.
  • The Division of Service Regions  completely processes the application and completes a CA/N check in thirty (30) days or less.
  • Upon completion of processing the application materials, the Division of Service Regions notifies the SRA or designee of the approval/denial of the application.
  • The SRA or designee then formally accepts or denies a candidate for a student internship or as a student  volunteer.
  • Once the  intern begins the practicum, the immediate supervisor assists the intern with obtaining appropriate access to the network and email. 2 
  • The DCBS staff supervising the  intern ensures that he/she is present when the intern is accessing TWIST.
  • The Cabinet, DCBS or the service region develops with the student intern a written outline (learning agreement) of the objectives for the practicum.
  • The Cabinet, DCBS or the service region provides the student intern with an orientation to standards of practice (SOP).
  • The practicum supervisor is to:
      1. Avoid placing a student intern in situations that may be harmful to the student or the client;
      2. Ensure that the social service worker (SSW) who assists in the intern's learning process supervises all home visits made by the student intern and that a report detailing the intern's strengths and weaknesses is provided to the practicum supervisor;
      3. Report the progress of the student intern to their college or university faculty advisor;
      4. Discuss any concerns with the student intern;
      5. Provide the evaluation checklist and any other required paperwork to the student intern and their college or university faculty advisor;
      6. Consult with the student intern’s faculty advisor as needed or negotiated in the learning agreement.
  • The region should recognize that the student  volunteer, while limited in the opportunities, should still have the opportunity to learn about DCBS and the field of child welfare and adult services. 
  • The region should facilitate meetings to provide information and answer questions for the student co-op, or volunteer. 
  • It is strongly recommended that the student  volunteer meet with the following:
      1. A select few social service workers;
      2. A select few Family Service Office Supervisors (FSOS);
      3. A Service Region Clinical Associate (SRCA) or Service Region Administrative Associate (SRAA); and
      4. A Service Region Administrator (SRA).
  • The SRA or designee notifies the appropriate Division of Service Regions upon the completion and/or termination of an internship. 
  • Notification is in the form of an email or mailed letter.


  1. A student may conceivably be in a dual role of both a CO-OP student and as a PCWCP student.  The CO-OP student is paid for the hours they are working as a Cabinet employee; however, the PCWCP student that is completing a practicum and simultaneously attending Cabinet training sessions does not receive a salary during the PCWCP participation.  Responsibilities of a CO-OP student and PCWCP student are two (2) completely separate functions and close supervision should occur so that a student complies with the respective obligations during the practicum.
  2. Individual account access to The Worker Information System (TWIST) is not permitted.