Vol. 17, No. 1 • May 2016
Why Training Matters
Does training matter in child welfare? If so, why?
Over the years North Carolina’s governors and legislature have shown they certainly believe training matters. Child welfare training requirements in our state got their start in 1991, when Gov. Martin issued an executive order requiring training for CPS workers. In 1998, with the support of the legislature, the NC Division of Social Services began building a training system for all areas of child welfare.
Today we have a robust training system offering 59 child welfare curricula, including pre-service and in-service courses. For an overview of what’s available, click here.
We Focus on Competencies
Each course we offer is developed based on competencies. For example, a competency for CPS workers is: “Understands the importance of a comprehensive and balanced assessment, knows what data must be gathered and how to thoroughly assess alleged abuse or neglect, family strengths and needs, and the risk and safety of children.”
We develop our courses, such as CPS In-Home Services, by targeting specific competencies and establishing learning objectives for them. Think of learning objectives as steps on the path to achieving competency.
A learning objective for the competency listed above would be that a worker can “Explain how to conduct the types of assessments that are completed as part of the social worker’s role in In-Home Services.”
In our classes we use many approaches to help child welfare workers meet learning objectives, including lecture, individual and group discussion, and skill-building practice activities.
In 2014-15, a total of 123 child welfare workers completed CPS In-Home Services. The box below outlines other key training statistics for 2014-15.
This leads us back to our original question. Does training matter?
Very much so. Training matters because it enables child welfare workers to begin the process of learning the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to do their jobs successfully.
Kathy Dobbs is Program Manager of the Child Welfare Services Staff Development Team within the NC Division of Social Services.
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To help you keep pace and to ensure child welfare professionals in North Carolina have access to information about the best ways to achieve positive outcomes for families and children, the NC Division of Social Services and its partners are continually revising and updating their training courses. Here is an update on some recent revisions.
Coaching Children’s Caregivers through Challenging Moments
The Course: In this two-day, classroom training, participants learn a partnership-based coaching approach and skills to help caregivers make long-lasting changes in their lives.
Target Audience: Because it teaches skills and knowledge that are helpful when working with families at any stage of the child welfare process, all child welfare professionals can benefit from taking this course.
What Will Be Different? This revision intentionally mirrors the coaching approach and techniques taught in Staying Power! A Supervisor’s Guide to Coaching and Developing Child Welfare Staff so supervisors and staff can speak the same language and apply the same coaching strategies. Information specific to child development and behavior management was pared down because much of this is covered in other courses. This gave us time to broaden the practical application of coaching to address the many challenges families face when they are asked to make changes and learn new skills. This revised course provides up-to-date research on the impact of coaching families, specific tools for coaching, and more opportunities for workers to practice those tools and skills.
Domestic Violence Policy and Best Practices in Child Welfare
The Course: This three-day classroom course teaches about North Carolina’s child welfare domestic violence policy, how to implement it, and best practices when working with families experiencing domestic violence.
Target Audience: This course is highly recommended for all county DSS employees in all areas of child welfare.
What Will Be Different? The Division’s Crystalle Williams, a lead trainer for this course, says the biggest change comes with the addition of a third day. “We found that two days is not enough time to spend on the complex nature of domestic violence and the intersection of child maltreatment,” Williams says. “More time can be spent understanding what domestic violence is, what it isn’t, and how to effectively intervene and keep children safe.”
Specific changes to the course include a new policy activity that incorporates scenarios, a new section on CPS intake screening guidelines, and a more in-depth discussion of the effects of domestic violence on children. The course also spends more time on the elements of an effective services agreement, and includes a practice activity where participants construct a services agreement using formal and informal resources.
Staying Power! A Supervisor’s Guide to Coaching and Developing Child Welfare Staff
The Course: This two-day, classroom training introduces supervisors and agency leaders to advanced concepts, tools, and practices that will enhance staff motivation and team effectiveness within their agency.
Target Audience: This course is for child welfare supervisors, managers, administrators, and directors employed in a NC county DSS.
What Will Be Different? This course is shorter. In response to supervisors’ feedback, Staying Power! is now offered as a two-day skill development training. The advanced techniques learned in this course will help supervisors see the parallel between the needs of their staff and the needs of the families their workers serve. Supervisors will explore what motivates staff and the impact supervisors can have on reducing turnover in their teams. Coaching skills taught in this class complement those taught to workers in the course Coaching Children’s Caregivers through Challenging Moments. This will help supervisors and staff learn to understand and use the same coaching “language” and strategies.
This revised course provides current research on staff turnover—it’s impact as well as effective interventions. Participants will also learn about team development and the dynamics of effective teams, which they will apply in scenario-based activities to address all areas of worker development.
Understanding and Intervening in Child Neglect
The Course: This self-paced, online course teaches about different types of neglect, how to recognize them, and their potential impact on families and children. It also teaches learners how to differentiate between poverty and neglect and to assess risk of harm to the child in the context of neglect.
Target Audience: All child welfare professionals can benefit from taking this course.
What Will Be Different? This course was recently revised to incorporate new research and to add more effective, improved activities. This course now emphasizes a holistic approach for responding to neglect that focuses on building protective factors, strengths-based case planning, and evidenced-based practices.
To learn more about these courses or to register, go to www.ncswlearn.org.
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Over the last several years the NC Division of Social Services has been moving from the foster parent pre-service training MAPP/GPS, which it has been promoting and endorsing for years, to an updated version of MAPP called Trauma-Informed Partnering for Permanence and Safety: Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (TIPS-MAPP). Here’s an update on this effort.
More Realistic Scenarios
The course uses eight children’s stories that are very representative of children that are in care. Participants are introduced to these eight children early in the course and then, as they work through key course concepts (for example, grief and loss), they do a practice activity about what that key concept looks like for these children. These children’s stories are very realistic and diverse, and include a baby experiencing failure to thrive, a six-year-old who has been physically abused, a teen mom, a young man who is gay, and a boy who is HIV positive and whose mother is dying of AIDS.
The NC Division of Social Services’ Deb Gallimore is one of several trainers responsible for our state’s transition to TIPS-MAPP. Asked about the scenarios used in the course, she says “Behind every behavior is a need. We are here to help identify and address these needs.” These scenarios, Gallimore says, help to get this point across.
As Gallimore puts it, “These training pairs model the critical partnerships between social workers, birth parents, and foster parents.”
She adds, “Not only that, but it makes a big difference when you are being taught by someone who has ‘been there and done that.’”
If you have questions about TIPS-MAPP, please contact Deb Gallimore (Debbie.Gallimore@dhhs.nc.gov).
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Ours is a high-risk profession. Child welfare workers and supervisors are confronted every day—both directly and indirectly—with danger and trauma. This can lead to secondary traumatic stress (STS).
Signs, Sources, & Consequences of STS
For child welfare professionals, getting “immersed” in trauma is truly part of the job description. We experience difficult events such as:
These and other experiences can cause STS, which may bring with it feelings of helplessness, anger, and hopelessness. STS can also cause symptoms and reactions that parallel post-traumatic stress disorder (e.g, re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal).
Left unaddressed, STS can cause all sorts of problems. It can hinder workers’ ability to do their jobs, negatively affect their health, and ultimately cause them to leave the profession. These things, in turn, undermine child welfare agencies’ capacity to achieve the outcomes they seek for children and families. Worker turnover, when it occurs, also brings with it tremendous financial costs.
Helping Agencies Prevent and Respond
To meet the needs of individual workers and their agencies, the NC Division of Social Services, in partnership with the UNC School of Social Work, has developed two new competency-based, classroom courses:
Each of these courses, which are profiled in the box below, will be offered ten times in the coming year.
These Courses Complement One Another
How to Enroll
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Chances are you’ve already read Children's Services Practice Notes or Fostering Perspectives. If not, consider it—they are great resources for supporting child welfare practice. Not only is the information helpful for you as an individual, it can also be used to facilitate discussions with your peers, with youth and families, and in team staffings and unit and department meetings. To subscribe to either of these publications (or both) go to http://eepurl.com/brPe9b.
Children’s Services Practice Notes provides child welfare professionals with information about research and practice models. Online issues include the following:
Making Quality Assessments (Dec. 2013). Explores the relationship between effective assessments and family engagement.
Timely Permanence (March 2014). Reinforces why timely permanence matters and describes our state’s strong commitment to achieving this goal.
Prescription Drugs and Child Welfare Practice (March 2012). Supports thorough assessments by answering common questions and describing the way substances affect parenting.
Trauma-Informed Child Welfare Practice (May 2012).Discusses the effects of trauma on parenting and child development and describes evidence-based treatments.
Child Welfare Practice with Adolescents(June 2012).Covers teen brain development, runaways, human trafficking, involving youth in CFTs, and more.
Child Neglect: Impact and Interventions (Jan. 2013). Describes evidence-based interventions for children that have experienced neglect.
Preventing Child Maltreatment (May 2013). Promotes the Strengthening Families Framework and parenting education programs that may prevent child maltreatment.
Family Reunification (June 2013). Timely reunification continues to be a challenge in NC. This issue shares resources and information to promote timely, successful, and lasting reunification.
Attachment and Child Welfare Practice (July 2014).Describes what attachment is, how it works, and how to respond effectively to attachment problems.
Safety Resources and Kinship Care (Dec. 2014). Provides clarifications and useful tips for the appropriate, successful use of safety resources and kinship placements.
Partnering with Schools (Jan. 2016). Provides information and tips to help child welfare professionals work closely with schools to monitor children’s academic progress and promote their learning and development.
Fostering Perspectives, goes out twice a year to every licensed foster parent in North Carolina, and also to North Carolina’s child welfare professionals. Available issues include:
CFTs in North Carolina (May 2012). Child and family team meetings provide an opportunity to engage families, youth, and community supports in the development and implementation of service agreements. This issue explores ideas and strategies that make it easier to understand CFTs and support their success.
Foster Parents and the Courts (Nov. 2012). Shares key information about the courts and the role foster parents kin caregivers can play.
Focusing on Child Well-Being (May 2013). Highlights what resource parents and social workers can do to help children lead healthy, happy, successful lives.
The Focus on Child Trauma (Nov. 2013). Shares what it means to be a trauma-informed parent, strategies for parents, and how you can learn more about this topic, which is so connected to the safety, permanence, and well-being of children.
Foster Care, Delinquent Behavior, and Juvenile Justice (May 2014). Offers guidance on how to prevent youth from getting involved with juvenile justice as well as what to do if youth are charged with a delinquent act.
Permanence for Older Youth in Care (Nov. 2014). Teens yearn to live on their own but also need connections to people who will always be there for them. This issue focuses on understanding and responding to teens’ need for belonging and lifelong support.
Taking Care of Yourself (May 2015). Shares perspectives from foster parents and others about the importance of self-care in order for your family to be healthy and successful.
Children’s Services Practice Notes and Fostering Perspectives are sponsored by the NC Division of Social Services and produced by the Family and Children’s Resource Program, part of the Jordan Institute for Families at the UNC School of Social Work.
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by Marianne Latz and Lindley Myers
Did you know that youth in substitute care are more likely to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) than youth in the general population?
It’s true! While 2% to 5.6% of people in the United States identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (Gates, 2014), 23% of females and 10.2% of males in substitute care identify as something other than “fully heterosexual” (Courtney, 2009).
LGBTQ Youth in Care
This lack of awareness occurs for many reasons. Often it is because youth feel unsafe. In the words of a North Carolina foster parent, “[Young people in foster care] were almost willing to hide this from the world to avoid another rejection, especially from their foster parents or the social worker—people that they knew were going to make daily decisions about their lives.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign (2014), young people who are LGBTQ are:
LGBTQ youth experience more placements and are more likely to live in a group home than their straight counterparts (Wilson, et al., 2014; Laver & Khoury, 2008). When in care, many experience discrimination and harassment from foster parents, group home staff, and peers (Berberet, 2004; Laver & Khoury, 2008).
Even well-meaning adults, without an understanding about how to support these youth, may contribute to their isolation and poor outcomes. As you can imagine, all of this can adversely affect their well-being.
A New Resource
The process of creating any training is an adventure. In this case, the journey to reach the published curriculum brought many distinct voices to the table.
Our process veered in a new direction when a decision was made to conduct interviews with North Carolina residents who could speak directly about youth in the foster care system. Interviewees included foster care workers, foster and adoptive parents, community supports, advocates, and foster care alumni.
The results of these interviews were stunning. Listening to the voices of colleagues and neighbors as they shared their thoughts and unique perspectives made the statistics come alive. The team at CFFACE wanted to share with learners the power of the story these voices were telling. The idea of a podcast-inspired module was born. The “In Our Own Words” module incorporates quotes from interview recordings into a narrative about the needs and experiences of youth in our foster care system who identify as LGBTQ.
The Course Structure
These three modules support the final lesson, “Making a Difference.” Here, best practice models are shared so the learner can take the information and determine how to apply it in their own practice or home.
This course also contains other important material for those that want to continue to explore and learn including a recorded panel discussion, a glossary, and a list of helpful resources for anyone wanting to explore issues of faith related to sexual or gender diversity.
You may take the full 4-hour training in one sitting or take it a little at a time, returning at your convenience to continue the course. Once you have finished, you may print a certificate of completion. To enroll in the course, go to: http://cfface.chass.ncsu.edu/documents/Registering_for_LGBTQ.pdf
Take the Course!
Marianne Latz is Center Manager for the NC State University’s Center for Family and Community Engagement; Lindley Myers is Vice President of Blue Spiral Consulting.
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North Carolina has redesigned the cornerstone of its child welfare training system, the pre-service course for new workers and supervisors. Piloting of this new version began in February; statewide implementation will begin in July 2016. This article outlines the changes to the course and the benefits they bring to child welfare professionals and their agencies.
Big Changes, Big Benefits
Many of these changes have been made in response to input from county DSS agencies, which have expressed a desire to reduce travel time and time staff spend away from the agency for pre-service. Changes have also been made to respond to requests from supervisors, who have asked to know more about what their staff are learning so they can do more to help staff prepare for the complex role of child welfare worker.
Of course, because pre-service’s main goal—orienting staff before they have direct contact with families—is the same, many things haven’t changed. For example, the course still defines roles and responsibilities for all child welfare roles (intake through adoption) and emphasizes the importance of family-centered practice. See the figure below for an outline of the new structure and sequence of pre-service.
A Great Beginning
Learn More or Register
To register for pre-service log in to www.ncswLearn.org.
If you have questions about pre-service, please contact Ginger Caldwell (email@example.com; 919-527-6365).
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The NC Division of Social Services is pleased to announce the launch of a pair of self-paced, on-demand, online courses designed to help child welfare professionals and their agencies promote the health of children in foster care:
Both courses were developed with funding from the NC Pediatric Society by the Family and Children's Resource Program, part of the Jordan Institute for Families at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work.
Learn More or Take These Courses
Note: Many other health-related practice tools and resources for DSS child welfare staff can be found at the Fostering Health NC online library at https://ncpeds.site-ym.com/?page=FHNC.
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In February 2016 federal reviewers released a report assessing the performance of North Carolina’s child welfare system, which includes programs involved in maltreatment investigations, foster care, and adoptions. Called the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR), this report recognized our state’s strengths in a number of important areas, including the pre-service training delivered to prospective foster parents.
On the whole, however, its conclusions were sobering. North Carolina did not meet federal standards for any of the 14 outcomes and systemic factors evaluated by reviewers.
While NC Division of Social Services leaders take issue with some specific findings in the current federal report, they acknowledge there is much room for improvement in our child protective services, foster care, and adoption programs.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Sherry Bradsher, Deputy Secretary for Human Services within NC DHHS, which oversees social services, stated “As painful as it might be, there’s nothing new or shocking in the report in terms of something that we didn’t know.”
“The thing to remember about the CFSR,” says Kevin Kelley, Section Chief for Child Welfare Services in the Division of Social Services, “is that it is not pass/fail. The CFSR standards are set so high because the federal government wants to see both excellence and continual improvement. That’s something we agree with completely.”
Once it is approved by the Children’s Bureau, North Carolina will have two years to meet the goals outlined in the PIP. This will be followed by a third year of oversight and monitoring. If we don’t meet our goals in that time, North Carolina may face financial sanctions. In 2011 our state was penalized $1.2 million for not meeting one goal of its previous federal program improvement plan.
Although the details of our new PIP are not yet known, it will likely focus on improvements related to practice within county DSS agencies and collaboration with the courts and outside service providers. NC’s child welfare training system will also likely play an important part in our state’s PIP.
To Read NC’s CFSR Report
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The NC Division of Social Services regularly sponsors 90-minute webinars to enhance child welfare practice. Recordings of many of these events, as well as supplementary handouts and follow-up documents, are available here. If you haven’t already, pay a visit to this site. Webinar recordings and the documents that go with them provide a wealth of useful practice information, as the examples you'll find here illustrate.
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NCDSS-Sponsored Child Welfare Training Available through ncswLearn.org
Click HERE to view, download, or print a concise, handy table outlining training requirements and all child welfare courses sponsored by the NC Division of Social Services.
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Click here for references cited in this issue.
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