Research from degree program helps distance MSW grad make impacts in legislative advocacy and practice in Colorado

CSU alumna Yolanda Arredondo presented the original research from a 2019 MSW capstone group project, contributing to legislation that will improve the training of child custody evaluators.

This past December, Yolanda Arredondo (MSW, ’19) was overjoyed to send a virtual round of high-fives to the members of her graduate program’s capstone research group. Although it’s been a few years since they last met, their work is making a difference in Colorado communities.

“Our capstone contributed to a positive change in training requirements for Colorado custody evaluators,” said Arredondo. “What we hoped would be a positive result of our research really came true!”

The group’s project, “Colorado Child Custody Evaluators Professional Background and Practices of Intimate Partner Violence,” was original research in the state of Colorado that was completed as part of the Master of Social Work program at Colorado State University with Assistant Professor Neomi Vin-Raviv as faculty advisor.

colorado state university school of social work alumni yolanda arredondo
Colorado State University School of Social Work alumna Yolanda Arredondo (MSW, '19).

The project included an anonymous survey of child custody evaluators, who may be asked to assess for intimate partner violence when one or both parents make allegations during a child custody case. The evaluator has to make recommendations to the court regarding parenting time and decision making, and their recommendations weigh heavily on final custody court orders.

“Our research was mentioned in 2020 during the legislative testimony to pass [Colorado HB 21-1228] requiring Child and Family Investigators and Parental Responsibility Evaluators to have training in the area of intimate partner violence. That law passed, and I recently attended some of that required training,” said Arredondo.

In her role as deputy director for the state’s Division of Child Welfare, Arredondo presented to the trainees about the child welfare system and the process of making assessments of suspected child abuse and neglect.

“It was so cool to be part of a training that tied back to our hard work from the capstone,” Arredondo said. “I shared our research with the participants because I wanted them all to know how we took their responsibility seriously and how getting this training will have meaningful impact on families.”

Read on to learn more about how Arredondo uses her experiences in CSU’s Master of Social Work program to advance social justice as well as her career in child welfare.

Describe your current position and responsibilities.

I currently serve as the Deputy Director for the Colorado Division of Child Welfare under the Colorado Department of Human Services. I work with county departments of human and social services, community agencies, and other caring stakeholders in improving our child welfare system in Colorado.

Why did you decide to pursue your current path?

I was already working for the Colorado Division of Child Welfare and wanted to pursue promotion opportunities within the field of child welfare. I felt in order to do so I needed an advanced degree. I needed to keep working full time, so I explored MSW programs and found a great fit with CSU’s part-time distance program.

Since graduating, I have received two promotions in my field and am proud to serve in my current position. I get to practice macro social work towards a more equitable responsive child welfare system.

It has also been exciting to see how our original research for the MSW capstone project positively contributed to legislation that will improve the training of child custody evaluators in Colorado, and how in my current professional role I was able to serve as a presenter for part of that training.

What advice do you have for current students?

Even when it is challenging to balance everything, [your degree program goal] is worth the investment, for your professional development and personal growth. Also, give yourself grace knowing you are doing the best you can on any given day.

The members of the fall 2019 capstone research project group were Meagan Cohee, Brittany Brigham, Josie, Mines, Yolanda Arredondo, and Michelle Shewmake. Read the story about this research project from 2019:

The School of Social Work is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.