A new master’s program will introduce students to learning about child protection and juvenile justice completely through the screens of their computers.
Bellevue University will offer a Master in Science degree in child, youth and family studies beginning in October. It will have nine eight-week classes completely online.
David Hoppe, program director for behavioral science, child protection/juvenile justice and addiction continuing education, created the program because he saw a growing need in students ready to move onto graduate school.
“I looked around and there wasn’t one online child protection or juvenile justice program I could find in the nation,” he said.
“[I would be] writing recommendations for people to go other places like UN-L (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), which has a master’s in child protection, but I was thinking, ‘I think we can do this in Bellevue.’”
Hoppe said the question of will there be enough students interested in the program came up frequently when going through the approval and planning process. Though he expected around 10 students in the first semester, Hoppe already has more than 30 interested.
“There is a need specifically for people wanting to work in child protection and juvenile justice,” he said.
The program is offered to anyone with a bachelor’s degree, as Hoppe said he didn’t limit it to one specific undergraduate major.
One aspect Hoppe made sure to exclude is requiring students to have an internship.
“My working adults, single mothers can’t take off, quit their job and do an internship,” he said.
Rather than a required internship, Hoppe will have students complete a project over the course of nine months with an agency.
“It’s self-paced, it’s finding an agency and identifying a problem in that agency and working with that agency to help solve that problem,” he said.
Kristin Murray, a graduate student in the program, decided to get her master’s because it focused on many of the human services jobs she already does.
“I’ve never taken fully online programs before, so it’ll be new to me, but at the same time, it is really convenient and I’ll be able to do things on my time,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to getting more into the policy and procedure part of it. I’m big into finding out what things work and don’t — I like to be part of putting programs together.”
Murray, who works at Boys Town Duncan Day School in Duncan, Neb., said she plans on moving back to Omaha and working with Boys Town after receiving her degree.
The papers students write will be concise and in the style human services typically write in, and there will be no tests, Hoppe said.
“It’s not a memorization program — this program is application,” he said. “There will be lots of case studies — if you were in this situation and you were dealing with this family, what theories could you apply to this family?
“They will have read about the theories, watch videos about the theories and will apply that information to a case study.”
In the field, Hoppe said there are many different careers people can take, and different agencies they can work for, such as Boys Town.
“It’s not limited in any way,” he said. “[They would go to] agencies that serve children, youth and adolescents.”
Hoppe said it was important to add both the child protection and juvenile justice areas, because he wanted to give people more options in case they experience burnout in their careers after graduation.
Hoppe said he looks forward to the program’s start.
“I’m hopeful we can have two or three successful starts this year and then we can use those folks as testimonials to show it is a viable program,” he said. “It’s giving students what they expected.”