Law-Policy BooksErikson Institute has partnered with the Civitas ChildLaw Center at Loyola University Chicago School of Law to offer two new innovative graduate programs this fall. The new programs will help leaders acquire a better understanding of laws, legal systems, and public policies and become stronger advocates for children and families at the policy level.

The new M.S. in Child Development/M.J. in Children’s Law and Policy dual degree program is the first of its kind in the country and provides students with an opportunity to gain in-depth understandings of child development as well as laws and legal systems that impact children and families so that they can more effectively lead, intervene, and advocate on their behalf.

Erikson is also offering a Children’s Law and Policy Specialization, which is designed to introduce child development and family service professionals to the critical issues and challenges that emerge when legal systems intersect with the lives of children and families.

“It is important for professionals in the early childhood field to have a deeper understanding of the laws and policies that impact the lives of children and families, because it helps them make better-informed, more thoughtful decisions that potentially lead to more equitable outcomes,” says Colette Davison, Ph.D., dean of students at Erikson.

The new academic programs help fulfill Erikson’s strategic goal to influence public policy to ensure that all children have the same opportunities to realize their full potential. Increasingly, professionals who work with children and families find that they need to better understand how many different systems impact the families they serve, and Erikson can help prepare them to advocate for informed policies that support just outcomes.

After completing the new three-year, 56-credit dual degree program, students will receive an M.S. in Child Development from Erikson and an M.J. in Children’s Law and Policy from Loyola. Students in the program will gain a deep understanding of how children develop in the context of family, community, and culture, and examine how issues of inequality are addressed through law and policy.

The new four-course specialization is open to students enrolled in Erikson’s M.S. in Child Development program, which can be completed in two or three years. It draws on a subset of the courses required for the M.J. degree and is designed for future child development and family service leaders who want to develop a foundation of legal knowledge in order to be better advocates in their field.

Some students in Erikson’s Master of Social Work program have already experienced a sample of what future students in the M.S./M.J. dual degree and specialization programs will encounter. Children, Families, and the Law, a course co-taught by Dr. Davison with Dr. Anita Weinberg of the Civitas ChildLaw Center, is a requirement for current Erikson Master of Social Work students and is part of the curriculum for students in the new programs. In the interdisciplinary course, master’s and doctoral students from Erikson join students from multiple Loyola programs, including law, psychology, social work, and education, to learn about and grapple with critical legal, policy, and child development issues.

“Based on what I learned in Children, Families, and the Law, I was able to become more aware and vigilant about policies and their influence over clients I see in my field work,” says Fernando Gonzalez III, who is on track to graduate from the MSW program in May 2017. “Specifically, I was better able to notice when policies might affect the families I was serving in my field work. Although I don’t necessarily want to work in a law- or policy-related field, it helps to understand issues like systemic racism and adverse social policies so I can acquire the tools necessary to combat them.”

Dr. Davison says partnering with Loyola’s Civitas Center is an excellent and mutually exciting fit for Erikson because of the similarities between the two institutions’ goals. “We both are strong advocates for social justice and equity for all children and families, and we both develop strong, effective leaders who understand how to work with children and families from diverse backgrounds,” she says.

To learn more about the new M.S. in Child Development/M.J. in Children’s Law and Policy degree program, click here.

To learn more about the new M.S. in Child Development with a Children’s Law and Policy specialization program, click here.