The White House, several federal agencies, and the government of Puerto Rico met on December 6, 2022, in an Economic Dialogue designed to align key priorities and commitments for the economic advancement of the Island. The Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and its programs are part of this effort to build a more prosperous future for the people of Puerto Rico.
ACF’s Children’s Bureau and the Office of Regional Operations held several meetings with the Puerto Rico Department of the Family Acting Secretary Ciení Rodríguez Troche, the Administration of Families and Children (ADFAN) Administrator Glenda Gerena Ríos, and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Chancellor Dr. Angélica Varela Llavona, and Dr. Gisela Negrón Velázquez, UPR Department of Social Worker Director and legal counsel for the respective entities to identify the goals of the memorandum of understanding that outlines a 5-year plan aimed at maintaining a pool of social workers, prioritizing retention strategies, and mitigating high caseloads while also increasing salary rates through Title IV-E funding.
On Monday, March 20, 2023, in the presence of ACF Regional Administrator Alfonso Nicholas and Program Liaison Nicole Meyers, the historic collaborative agreement was signed by PRDoF, ADFAN, and UPR. It provides $2.5 million in scholarships and will benefit 214 students pursuing degrees in social work (107 bachelor’s and 107 master’s) who commit to serving as Child Welfare Social Workers for ADFAN. The program goes into effect in August 2023.
ACF Regional Administrator Alfonso F. Nicholas stated that “HHS is proud to support this memorandum of understanding between the Department of the Family and the University of Puerto Rico to achieve the development and professionalization of more social workers in Puerto Rico. It is part of our goal of achieving economic mobility for social work professionals and one of the HHS departmental deliverables included in the Economic Dialogue at the White House on December 6, 2022.”
Acting Secretary Rodríguez Troche explained, “with this measure, we are not only helping hundreds of students whose vocation is to serve through one of the most dignified, important, and necessary professions, such as social work, but also strengthening and professionalizing the child welfare workforce for children and families in Puerto Rico. In the same way, knowing the quality of the Social Work programs of the University of Puerto Rico, we know that this program will add new talents, with the same commitment and abilities, to the incredible team of professionals at the Department of the Family.”
ADFAN Administrator Glenda Gerena Ríos stated, “with these scholarships, subsidized with federal funds from Title IV-E, students will be able to pay tuition, receive stipends and necessary supplies to cover their study needs. Soon we will announce all the requirements to qualify for these scholarships, which will take into account the student’s economic situation for admittance to the UPR School of Social Work, either for a bachelor’s or master’s degree.”
UPR Río Piedras campus Chancellor, Dr. Angélica Varela Llavona, stated, “This afternoon, we formalized a historic agreement that allows the Department of Social Work of the Río Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico, jointly with the Puerto Rico Department of the Family to carry out a project that will help our fellow citizens with emotional problems, and provide stipends to our social work students.”
Acting Secretary Rodríguez Troche explained that “this is the first of several collaborative agreements that we will also be signing with other universities, thus expanding not only the economic offer for hundreds of students who want to pursue a career in Social Work but also creating the conditions necessary so that the limited number of social workers in the Family Department is a thing of the past.”