LYNNWOOD — Edmonds Community College is set to offer its first bachelor’s degree option this fall.
The school is starting a bachelor of applied science in child, youth and family studies. Instructors and administrators who planned the program say it’s a degree students can take with them into two main fields: human and social services, or early childhood education.
In order to enroll, students must come in with a related two-year technical degree. It could be in early childhood education or in human and social services, both offered at Edmonds Community College.
Unlike a typical bachelor’s degree, an applied science degree focuses on linking every class to career expectations and puts more weight on classes or internships in the subject area than on general education requirements, said instructor Karen Townsend, who helped create the new program.
Educators at the college worked for about two years to design the program and get it accredited. That included research on the value and need for such a degree. The college found that there will be an average of 658 related job openings annually in Snohomish and King counties over the next six years or so. Among the possibilities are preschool teachers, social workers, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.
The program is designed to be possible for students who already are working part- or full-time and have other commitments to balance with their coursework. Classes are expected to be offered in the evening and as hybrid courses, which are partially online.
Townsend leads and teaches in the college’s social and human services department. She’s been at the college for 15 years and previously worked as a child and family therapist.
“The bottom line is that we want our students to be able to provide the best service possible for children, youth and families,” she said. “I think they’re going to be able to increase the level of care that group is getting. They’ll be able to focus on prevention and working with our youth at earlier ages. I hope they’ll find fulfilling jobs.”
Applications are due June 2 to become part of the program’s first cohort of 30 students. Townsend expects to see a mix of people, most of whom likely have some experience in the field but are looking to advance. She hopes about half of the students come from an early childhood education background and half from social and human services. Part of what makes the new degree unique is that it integrates both areas of study, and students can learn from each other.
There’s a need to combine children’s educational needs and overall services for families, not only in classes but in agencies that provide support for children and families, Townsend said. That includes schools, government agencies, courts and nonprofits. Looking at one piece of the equation without the other — such as focusing on a child’s education without looking at their health and safety at home — limits workers’ ability to help.
The college’s new degree fits nicely with efforts by state leaders to better integrate child and family services, Townsend said. Gov. Jay Inslee has pushed for a new state department focused on children and families, breaking out those pieces from the Department of Social and Health Services.
“There’s a need to get out of the silos and look at the people instead of the program,” Townsend said. “We really want to consolidate how we care for the whole child, and not just have bits and pieces in different programs and agencies.”
The combination of subjects is the degree’s greatest strength, program manager Teresa Lin said. Students are expected to learn about education for young children, family support systems, and addiction prevention and intervention, among other topics.
“People aren’t compartmentalized in reality,” Lin said. “We aren’t only a child or only part of a family, we’re a whole human. It really helps students have a broader perspective of a person’s life.”
More preschools are requiring teachers to have degrees, making this program a good option for them, Lin said. The degree also could lead to jobs with nonprofits that work directly with youth and families, or in juvenile justice or agencies such as Child Protective Services.
To learn more about the degree, go to edcc.edu/cyfs. Information sessions are scheduled for prospective students. The next one is 4 p.m. Tuesday. Four more sessions are scheduled in April. All are at Snohomish Hall in room 338.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.