Family Support

The Family Support Program is a Program of Study. You must be accepted first to SSA and then by the Program of Study. SSA students apply to Programs of Study during the fall quarter of their first year.


The Family Support Program is designed for students who are interested in partnering with parents to support the development of their children. It offers particularly rich opportunities for students who would like to support families with infants and young children.

The Family Support Program

The Family Support Program is based on the premise that all families need support in raising their children, particularly at times of family transition, when facing illnesses or losses, or when facing difficult economic circumstances. At the core of the family support approach is a focus on the development of partnerships between the social worker and parent in service of promoting child and family strengths and preventing developmental problems. The family support approach acknowledges the diversity of family and cultural goals for children’s development and recognizes that children’s lives are grounded in community settings.


The approach emphasizes prevention and promotion, an ecological framework, and the connections between policy and practice. Students interested in family support can be in either the clinical or social administration concentration and have a field placement in an agency that practices family support principles. In addition to the Core, students will take two required courses and will be introduced to the theoretical principles and values underlying family support.

In the first course, students will examine programs that use family support principles and the evidence base for the effectiveness of such programs. Students will be introduced to a variety of direct practice techniques such as home visitation, parent support groups, and using videotape to help parents learn about parent-child interaction. An emphasis will be placed on relationship-based intervention, reflective practice, and strengths-based practice.

In the second course, students will examine contemporary policy questions of concern to families. They will consider demographic, labor market, and policy trends affecting family income, family structure, family time, and family care and specific policy and program responses in such areas as family leave, child care, income assistance, and marriage. Students will consider the ideological, conceptual, and empirical basis for the issues discussed. 

Field Placement

Family Support field placements for students in the clinical concentration might be at community agencies that offer parenting services and supports, programs providing childcare or after-school care, school-based programs supporting teenage parents, hospital newborn nurseries or units supporting families whose child has a non-psychiatric illness, and grief/bereavement programs.

Family Support placements for social administration students might be with child advocacy organizations, research institutes addressing children’s needs, and organizations focused on work-family policy.

Career Opportunities

Graduates of SSA’s Family Support program are leaders of government agencies and directors of community-based agencies.

Clinical students who have graduated from the Family Support program will have completed most of the classroom requirements for early intervention certification. Clinical students will also have received a good foundation for later pursuing licensure as an infant mental health provider or an early childhood mental health consultant.

Contact Information

Sydney Hans, PhD
Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor
Family Support Program