Training Matters


Vol. 18, No. 1 May 2017

Expanding NC’s Child Welfare Training Capacity

by Lydia Duncan

Let me start by introducing myself, since this is my first appearance in Training Matters. I began as leader of the Division of Social Services’ Child Welfare Staff Development Team in June 2016. I’ve worked in human services since the early 1980s as a trainer, curriculum developer, and administrator. Prior to 2011, I was with the Institute for Families, part of the Rutgers University School of Social Work, where I was an instructional designer responsible for coordinating and developing curricula for New Jersey’s child welfare workforce.

I consider it a great pleasure to work with North Carolina’s state, university, and county trainers and administrators to improve the delivery of child welfare services. I am as committed as you are to expanding our capacity to meet the needs of our workforce. Assessing the need and developing training to meet the need has been a focus of my career since the early 1980s.

Expanding Training Capacity
When our team at the Division recently looked at training demand data, one fact stood out for me. Between 2015 and 2016, applications to register for our courses rose 47%, from 3,460 to 7,243 applications. That’s a big one-year jump!

Our team responded to this surge by adding training events. Without additional staff, this extra effort on our part enabled 53% of all applicants to attend and complete training in 2016—a significant accomplishment. There was a similar increase and response to applications submitted for all training offered through

We at the Division welcome this increased demand and we’re taking steps to grow our capacity to meet counties’ child welfare training needs. Specifically, we are:

Adding Trainers. The Division has received additional funding from the legislature, allowing us to add five new trainers and a curriculum developer. These trainers will be “mobile,” meaning they will be home-based but travel throughout the state as needed. These new team members are already on board and are getting ready to hit the road.

Partnering with County Trainers. The Staff Development Team is in the process of establishing relationships with county trainers to co-facilitate the Division’s child welfare courses. We are excited about this: it will increase our ability to meet your needs while giving us access to new and current perspectives about what is happening in the field.

Working with University Partners. We continue to rely on our university partners to provide a range of training and technical assistance opportunities for NC’s child welfare workforce. They are responsive as well as creative in how they bring learning to child welfare workers. For example, this year we are working with UNC’s Family and Children’s Resource Program to develop DIY (do-it-yourself) kits, a new kind of training resource for supervisors. See the box below for more on these kits. We are confident that building the capacity of supervisors to help their staff improve their practice will have a significant, positive impact on child and family outcomes.

Coming in July 2017

New Training Resource for Supervisors

To help supervisors in North Carolina county child welfare agencies provide ongoing professional development to staff, the Division of Social Services, in partnership with the UNC School of Social Work, is developing the Spotlight on Practice Series. Each part in this series of DIY (do-it-yourself) training kits will give supervisors all they need to lead a 30-minute training in their agency on an important child welfare topic. Each kit will include facilitation instructions, handouts, and resources to support further learning. Topics covered will include heroin and opioids, safety thresholds, making medical decisions for young people in foster care, and more. Starting in July 2017 supervisors will be able to access these kits through the “Supervisor Resources” section in

NC’s Statewide Training Partnership
In January, the Staff Development Team met with our university partners (aka the NC DSS Child Welfare Services Statewide Training Partnership). We reviewed our vision and mission, considered the services we deliver, and discussed how we can ensure we are developing and delivering the best products possible. We are committed to continuing this dialogue and to creating a process for evaluating how what we do impacts children and families.

The Program Improvement Plan
As I’m sure you’ve heard, between now and December 2018 our state will be working on a federal Program Improvement Plan (PIP) to strengthen our child welfare system. In the box below you will find training-related strategies from this plan. Workgroups tasked with accomplishing these and other PIP goals are already hard at work. When they are done our child welfare training system will be stronger and more effective than ever.

Training-Related Items from NC's PIP

Analyze and Improve Child Welfare Training

PIP Goal 1, Strategy 2: Enhance the training system to support the consistent application of revised policies and practices. Activities for this strategy:

  • Identify key competencies necessary for revised policies and practices and compare to current curricula for initial and ongoing training to identify gaps
  • Revise training curricula and delivery methods based on the gaps assessment to include the competencies necessary to ensure staff have the basic skills necessary to do their work
  • Strengthen the transfer of learning model for all curricula and mandate the use of the transfer of learning tool
  • Develop a series of “in-service” trainings to be used by county supervisors and training divisions to reinforce consistent implementation of revised policies and practices

Develop and Implement Supervisor Academy

PIP Goal 1, Strategy 3: Develop and implement a supervisor academy to strengthen county DSS agencies’ capacity to consistently apply policies and practices. Activities to support this strategy include:

  • Identify supervisor competencies to support consistent implementation of revised policies and practices
  • Develop supervisor academy based on identified competencies
  • Implement supervisor academy beginning with a cohort of supervisors from the 10 OSRI counties
  • Develop and execute a plan for the statewide use of the supervisor academy using a regional approach
Want to Learn More?
Access NC’s full PIP here:

Effective Learning Experience
Finally, I would like for all of you to make a commitment to ensure training participants have the most effective learning experience possible. The training guidelines listed in are there to make this happen. Following are some of the most important guidelines for those wishing to have an effective training and learning experience:

  • Be present for all training days, arriving and leaving as scheduled to include breaks
  • Participate in activities and group discussions
  • Share your knowledge and experiences with others
  • Adhere to norms developed by the group
  • Eliminate distractions such as side conversations, cell phones, accepting calls, and frequently leaving the classroom
  • Complete class assignments that may occur outside of the classroom, as this enhances group discussions and the sharing of different perspectives

Let’s make sure all our training experiences are a success!

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Upcoming Online Child Welfare Courses

To ensure child welfare professionals in our state have access to training and information to help them achieve positive outcomes for families and children, the NC Division of Social Services and its partners will soon be bringing you the following online courses. Unless otherwise noted, all courses are expected to debut in summer 2017.

Applying the Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard
This self-paced, on-demand course explains what North Carolina’s reasonable and prudent parent standard is, how it promotes the well-being of young people in foster care, and how agencies and resources parents can implement it successfully. Learners will value the way this course teaches them to use tools to support the standard, and they will love the course’s compelling video interviews with youth, resource parents, and social workers. Developed in partnership with the Division of Social Services by the UNC School of Social Work.

Target Audience: Child welfare professionals in NC county child welfare agencies, especially those working with resource parents and young people in foster care.

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Domestic Violence Forum: Breaking the Silos to Break the Silence
This new online forum series addresses different topics relevant to families impacted by domestic violence. Forums feature guest speakers, videos, and conversations among participants and forum facilitators. The forums aim to increase communication between agencies with similar goals but different methods of accomplishing them; all agencies that provide resources for families impacted by domestic violence will have a place to talk, learn, and collaborate. When we break out of our silos, we break the silence of domestic violence. Developed in partnership with the Division of Social Services by the Center for Family and Community Engagement at NC State University.

Target Audience: Child welfare workers and supervisors, other DSS county staff, resource parents, Guardians ad Litem, and staff from domestic violence advocacy agencies and batterer intervention programs, group homes and private child-placing agencies, adoption agencies, Legal Aid of NC, clerks of court (DV units), police departments, and mentoring and community agencies.

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Supporting Effective Documentation: A Course for Supervisors
This self-paced, on-demand course teaches supervisors strategies for addressing—and preventing—common documentation problems. Through video and case examples, learners will practice identifying and correcting specific documentation issues, and they will learn effective ways to support the kind of documentation needed to make sound decisions in child welfare. Developed in partnership with the Division of Social Services by the UNC School of Social Work.

Target Audience: Child welfare supervisors in NC county child welfare agencies.

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Game Building as Engagement
This self-paced, on-demand course will introduce learners to games as a mechanism for fostering engagement, reflection, and conversations with clients and children. The course teaches learners to develop basic interactive narratives and use them to help clients and children to explore the consequences of certain courses of action, in scenarios such as dealing with a bully at school or encountering the threat of violence at home. The interactive format encourages self-efficacy, responsibility, and self-reflection. Through this course, professionals and parents can develop prompts and build interactive narratives that will allow exploration on the target area as well as potential context for further conversations about the topic areas. Developed in partnership with the Division of Social Services by the Center for Family and Community Engagement at NC State University.

Target Audience: Child welfare workers, fathers, and those employed with agencies that provide services or resources to children and families impacted by domestic violence.

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How Loss Impacts Youth in Foster Care
Ambiguous loss, or the physical and psychological absence of loved ones and/or material possessions, can significantly impact children and youth in foster care. How Loss Impacts Youth in Foster Care: Our Role in Acknowledging and Processing Ambiguous Loss is a self-paced, on-demand course that begins by examining the types of losses youth experience, the key features associated with ambiguous loss, and the pervasive nature of these losses. It then teaches learners to recognize unresolved loss and support children and youth with grief related to these losses. Finally, the course explores practical communication skills that can be used to help youth process ambiguous loss and express their loss in healthy ways. Developed in partnership with the Division of Social Services by the Center for Family and Community Engagement at NC State University.

Target Audience: Foster parents, kinship caregivers, social workers, and community partners.

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OSRI/Case Review Process
North Carolina’s OSRI/Case Review Process: What to Expect is a self-paced, on-demand course that explains what our state’s OSRI/case review process is, what to expect when an On-Site Review occurs, and what resources are available to county child welfare agencies. Learners will appreciate this brief, clear overview of a process that is still new to many in our state. Developed in partnership with the Division of Social Services by the UNC School of Social Work.

Target Audience: Child welfare professionals in NC county child welfare agencies.

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Preventing Premature Case Closure in CPS In-Home
This self-paced, on-demand course focuses on how child welfare supervisors can address—and prevent—premature case closure in CPS in-home services. Learners will particularly appreciate the strategies the course teaches for: ensuring assessments are comprehensive, preparing families and youth for CFTs, crafting appropriate family service agreement objectives, and linking the family with effective services. Developed in partnership with the Division of Social Services by the UNC School of Social Work.

Target Audience: Child welfare supervisors in NC county child welfare agencies, especially those responsible for CPS In-Home Services.

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Public-Private Toolkit Orientation
The Public-Private Toolkit is designed to help NC’s public child welfare agencies improve outcomes for families by strengthening their partnerships and increasing accountability with private child-placing agencies. Orientation to the Public-Private Toolkit: Building Effective Partnerships with Private Child-Placing Agencies is an on-demand, online course that explains what the public-private toolkit is, reviews the steps agencies go through to complete the toolkit, shares lessons learned from county DSS agencies already using the toolkit, and describes next steps for getting started with the toolkit. Developed by the UNC School of Social Work with funding from The Duke Endowment.

Target Audience: Child welfare professionals in NC county child welfare agencies, especially those working with resource parents and young people in foster care.

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Supporting Children and Youth with IDD in Foster Care
This self-paced, on-demand course teaches about the unique needs of children and youth with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) in foster care. After taking this course, learners will be able to answer the following questions: (1) What is IDD? (2) What can foster parents expect from a child with IDD in their care?
(3) How can foster parents best support children and youth with IDD? In addition, the course familiarizes learners with resources and supports available through local education agencies, advocacy groups, and organizations at the local, state, and national level. This is a valuable course for anyone wanting to support the academic, behavioral, and psychological development of children and youth with IDD. Developed in partnership with the Division of Social Services by the Center for Family and Community Engagement at NC State University.

Target Audience: Child welfare professionals and foster caregivers.

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Working Safe, Working Smart
This self-paced, on-demand course addresses personal safety in the workplace. The focus is on the interaction between staff and clients or the general public. The training presents an approach for determining safety needs within an agency and identifying a broad outline of areas that might require safety planning. Participants learn how to identify potentially dangerous situations both in the office and the community and acquire skills to both prevent and de-escalate such interactions. The course also familiarizes learners with strategies for managing interviews with specific populations and developing a safe culture within the agency. Developed by Independent Living Resources, Inc., of Durham, NC.

Target Audience: Child welfare professionals employed by a NC county DSS, including social workers, supervisors, program managers, and administrators.

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Orientation for Supervisors to ncswLearn

Child welfare supervisors are really important. After all, they’re the ones responsible for ensuring the people who work directly with families and children in crisis have the skills and knowledge they need to make a difference. Supervisors are responsible for making sure their employees are competent and that they continue to develop professionally in our dynamic, demanding field.

The “Supervisor Resources” Section on ncswLearn is a powerful tool designed to help them with this task. Through this section of North Carolina’s child welfare learning portal supervisors can perform a host of key training-related functions, such as registering employees for training, viewing employees’ training histories, and more. And soon, in June 2017, supervisors will have access to a new short orientation that will help them get the most out of the Supervisor Resources Section.

Questions Answered!

How do I make sure that I can see information in ncswLearn for all the people I supervise?

What do I do if I need to cancel someone’s registration?

How can I add a training event sponsored by my agency to my supervisees’ training histories?

The new 20-minute, self-paced online orientation, Supervisory Features on, will answer all these questions. In addition, it will provide supervisors with step-by-step instructions for using ncswLearn to:

  • Ensure you have an accurate list of all your employees;
  • Check your workers’ required courses;
  • Submit training registration applications on workers’ behalf;
  • Check employees’ training schedules;
  • Help workers meet continuing education requirements; and
  • Identify additional courses to assist with their professional development.

Be on the Lookout
Look for an announcement soon from the Division of Social Services when this orientation is launched.

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A new learning site for North Carolina’s foster and adoptive parents and kinship caregivers

In March 2017 the NC Division of Social Services launched, a learning site for our state’s resource parents. This site features:

On-Demand Courses. Available any time, these short, free courses include a certificate of completion learners can share with their supervising agencies. Foster parents are encouraged to talk in advance to their supervising agency about obtaining training credit through

Webinars. Recorded webinars on address a range of topics of interest to all parents and caregivers. Recordings vary in length and normally include handouts. Topics covered include creating normalcy for young people in foster care and treatment for ADHD.

Videos. Helpful, short videos on topics discussed by experts and those with lived experiences. Take a few minutes to learn about issues relevant to those caring for children and young adults in foster care.

Resources. The Resources page provides links to Fostering Perspectives, NC Kids Adoption and Foster Care Network, and many other sources of information and support.

Answers. The site’s FAQ page answers questions many resource parents ask.

Join the List. To sign up to receive news and updates go to:

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Watch Recorded Webinars

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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NC DSS-Sponsored Child Welfare Training Available through

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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~ Family and Children's Resource Program ~