“Social work found me.” Erin Mayhorn’s passion for child welfare culminates in doctoral degree

Erin Mayhorn, Child Welfare Workforce Development Manager at the CoSW, details her professional journey in child welfare.

Share news:

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Making a difference in the lives of children and families in the Commonwealth has always been a passion for Dr. Erin Mayhorn, and now, three degrees later, it has paid off in the best way.

Mayhorn, Child Welfare Workforce Development Manager at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW), graduated on May 3, 2024, with a Doctorate of Social Work. Because of this passion for child welfare, Mayhorn, a first-generation college student, was able to earn three degrees (Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work, and Doctorate of Social Work) with no student loans.

Attending Morehead State for her undergraduate degree, Mayhorn entered college from a small town in Eastern Kentucky knowing she wanted to be in a helping profession but didn’t know which route to take. Then, social work found her.

“I always say that social work found me,” Mayhorn said. “I started out thinking I was going to do nursing or something in the medical field. An advisor recommended social work and at first, I wasn’t sure because of the stereotypes around being a social worker. After pursuing social work, I kept being compelled to stay in child welfare.”

During Mayhorn’s time at Morehead, she joined the Public Child Welfare Certification Program (PCWCP, now called Child Welfare Prep). Through this program, she was able to get in-state tuition, a stipend, and a particular concentration in public child welfare training. Following graduation, participants are required to work for two years at the Department of Community Based Services (DCBS) in a county of their preference.

While Mayhorn worked at DCBS, she received financial support to pursue her Master of Social Work, this time at the University of Louisville. Mayhorn continued to work her way up to a supervisory role at DCBS in Fayette County, seeing the difference in the child welfare workers who graduated from the CW Prep program.

“As a supervisor, I could see workers coming in from the CW Prep program being more prepared, which means families were getting quicker services and usually more stable services because the workers stay for two years,” Mayhorn said.

When a position at the CoSW opened to become a CW Prep recruiter in 2016, Mayhorn took the opportunity to recruit students to the program that had helped her significantly, and to also help reduce turnover in the social work field.

While at the University of Kentucky, working in child welfare once again paid off, giving Mayhorn an opportunity to pursue her Doctorate of Social Work, walking across the stage for a third time and proving herself wrong yet again.

“I had all these ‘I nevers’ because I was from such a small town in Kentucky,” Mayhorn said. “I said I would never go to UK because it was too big. I said I would never do child welfare or pursue my Masters or Doctorate. It’s really nice to be able to prove myself wrong. I said I would never but here I am because of the support and community that I’ve been able to have through child welfare. It’s a special place and I’m really honored that I was able to get to this position.”

Being able to earn three degrees with no student loans because of child welfare has made a significant impact on Mayhorn and her family.

“Education is important to my family as a first-generation college student from Phelps, Ky. I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 2003 and now it’s 2024 and I’m still in child welfare,” Mayhorn said. “If you’re passionate about helping families, apply to CW Prep and get your tuition paid for.”

For more information on CW Prep or to apply, please visit the CW Prep website.

Recent Articles

For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.