Background Check and admission to the Social Work Program
The University of Washington, Tacoma School of Social Work and Criminal Justice (SSWCJ) does not consider an applicant's criminal conviction history when making an initial admission decision. The MSW/BASW applications for admission do not ask the applicant to disclose prior convictions. By law, the University of Washington will not automatically or unreasonably deny an applicant's admission or restrict access to campus residency based on an applicant's conviction history. Therefore, we strongly encourage all interested prospects to apply to our programs.
The SSWCJ does review conviction history information for all admitted social work students. Applicants who are offered admission will be required to complete a background check through CastleBranch. The SSWCJ will conduct a review of all conviction history information on an individual case-by-case basis; this helps the school advise students.
The SSWCJ values the lived experience of our community members. Our students, staff and faculty bring diverse backgrounds and identities to the SSWCJ that serve as a catalyst to pursue social work. We understand that a conviction history can be a strength -- and can serve as motivation to help others facing similar experiences and to advocate for system change. Applicants with prior convictions and/or history of other disciplinary actions are strongly encouraged to consider a social work degree. However, there can be some limitations related to which field placements are available to individuals with prior convictions. The SSWCJ strives to explore options for students in these circumstances at the earliest possible point, and to provide accurate information about any possible limitations, if applicable.
Chris Barrans, Director of Field Education
All students pursuing a social work degree are required to complete a field practicum with an approved agency as part of their degree requirements. Some agencies may require an additional background check and/or drug screen to determine whether students are qualified or allowed to be placed in that particular agency. These policies are set by the agency, not by the social work program. Therefore, it is possible that some agencies may not accept students who have certain convictions on their record or a positive drug screen. These policies typically apply to both practicum students and employees of these sites. As a result, some students may not be able to pursue their preferred or expected field practicum due to individual agency policies regarding students’ conviction history or other criteria. While the SSWCJ will make every reasonable effort to assist students in securing an appropriate field placement, if students are unable to complete the required practicum, they will also be unable to satisfactorily complete their degree requirements to graduate. In these cases, students are also not eligible for refund of tuition and other fees.
Prospective applicants/students with questions or concerns about the School’s conviction history requirements should contact David Ross, Manager of Student Services and Outreach or Chris Barrans, Director of Field Education