Vol. 19, No. 1 • June 2018
Reflections on Training
An Interview with Lisa Cauley, MSW
This is an eventful time for child welfare training in our state. The federal program improvement plan (PIP) brought changes to policy and practice that must be reflected in and supported by training. The social service system reform law passed last year (HB 630) will likely bring further changes.
For insight into child welfare training in North Carolina, we spoke with Lisa Cauley, who became Deputy Director for Child Welfare within the NC Division of Social Services in 2017.
You’re fairly new to your position. What would you like people to know about you?
But a more important thing for people to know about me is that my parents were foster parents. So while I know what it’s like to work in a county, I also bring the perspective of someone who grew up in a home that provided foster care.
Also, for three years I taught policy and practice with the NC Child Welfare Education Collaborative at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work, so I have background in and passion for child welfare training.
What do you think of recent changes related to training?
I’m also pleased we were able to increase the number of people attending training. We did this in part by moving from co-training to using solo trainers. We’ve also created a process for partnering with county DSS trainers to deliver preservice, which should allow counties to onboard new hires faster. And I hope we’ve made it clear to county directors that when they can’t get staff into needed training, they should call us so we can try to come up with a solution.
How do you see child welfare training in our state right now?
Looking ahead, there will be changes. We hope the Center for the Support of Families (which is assessing NC’s child welfare system as part of HB 630) will provide recommendations about training that we can use as a foundation for change. And of course, any change will also have to factor in input from those in our counties who actually do the work.
The only way for North Carolina to get where it needs to go in child welfare is through a strong partnership between the state, the counties, and stakeholders. I hope we can continue to build this partnership and use it to revise and develop the training our state needs to equip staff to assess safety, provide permanence, and improve the well-being of children.
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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. All courses are expected to debut by summer 2018. Unless otherwise noted, these courses are available on ncswLearn.org, North Carolina’s learning site for human services professionals.
Critical Thinking in Child Welfare: A Course for Supervisors
Target Audience: Child welfare supervisors employed with NC county child welfare agencies.
NC’s Guardianship Assistance Program
Target Audience: Professionals in NC county child welfare agencies working to achieve permanence for children in foster care.
Adoption Assistance Eligibility
Target Audience: NC county DSS staff responsible for determining children’s eligibility for adoption assistance and non-recurring costs for adoption and/or managing requests for vendor payments.
Orientation to the Supervisor Academy
for Program Managers and Administrators
Target Audience: Program managers and administrators from NC county child welfare agencies.
Trauma Screening 101
Target Audience: Child welfare professionals (workers, supervisors, program managers, and directors) from NC county DSS agencies.
Target Audience: Resource parents.
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North Carolina is making a concerted effort to increase the support available to county child welfare supervisors. For example, as part of its federal Program Improvement Plan (PIP), our state is implementing a Supervisor Academy. The Academy’s mission is to create an integrated organizational framework for effective child welfare supervision that values and demonstrates support for the vital role supervisors play in ensuring positive outcomes for children, youth, and families.
Over the past two years, the NC Division of Social Services has partnered with an advisory group of county DSS staff, Methodist University, and the UNC School of Social Work to develop three new courses for the Academy:
These courses, which are primarily classroom-based and designed to be taken in the sequence listed above, are currently being offered to selected supervisors from Buncombe, Craven, Cumberland, Durham, Mecklenburg, Pitt, Scotland, Wake, and Wilson counties.
Since these courses are new, understanding their effectiveness is a priority. At this stage, participating supervisors take an assessment to get a baseline of their knowledge and skills. After each course, supervisors complete another assessment and a Participant Satisfaction Form to measure their learning and to capture their overall perception of the courses. Results are reported to the U.S. Children’s Bureau as part of North Carolina’s PIP.
Supervisor Academy Courses
Nuts and Bolts of Child Welfare Supervision. This 6-day course builds on the required course Introduction to Supervision in Child Welfare Services. The goal of Nuts and Bolts is to ensure participants have the knowledge and skills they need to consistently interpret and operationalize policies and procedures based on best practices in child welfare supervision.
Using Data to Improve Practice and Performance. Change is constant in child welfare. This can make it difficult to assess whether our practice is effective. This blended course (2 classroom days plus a live online session) teaches supervisors to use a continuous quality improvement (CQI) approach to understand what is working, what’s not, and why, and to use this information to implement realistic strategies to improve performance.
Using Data to Improve Practice and Performance with Community Partners. County child welfare agencies can’t improve outcomes for children and families alone. Community partners’ help is needed! This blended course (2 classroom days plus a live online session) prepares supervisors to engage community partners in a CQI process to identify the root cause of a problem, understand a solution that will work in the community, and help implement it.
In the meantime, a self-paced online course is being developed to give county DSS child welfare program managers and administrators an overview of how the Academy came to be, provide more details about Academy courses, and offer suggestions for how managers can support supervisors in applying what they learn in the Academy. This on-demand course, Orientation to the Supervisor Academy for Program Managers, is now available via ncswLearn.org.
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Responding to feedback from stakeholders, the NC Division of Social Services now holds quarterly calls about the diligent recruitment and retention (DRR) of foster and adoptive families for children in foster care. These calls are a fantastic way for front line staff and supervisors to connect with and learn from their peers across the state. The calls, which are facilitated by the Division’s NC Kids team, occur in January, April, July, and October each year.
Discussion on these calls is focused and practical: for example, the Oct. 2017 call’s theme was “Getting the Most Out of What You’ve Got.” Feedback so far has been very positive and attendance averages around 120 people per call.
For more details about DRR calls, see the Jan. 10, 2018 Dear County Director Letter (CWS-02-2018) found here: https://www2.ncdhhs.gov/dss/dcdl/2018.htm.
If you miss a call, you can listen to call recordings at https://www2.ncdhhs.gov/dss/publications/
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In 2017, the NC Division of Social Services introduced a new kind of training resource in our state. To help supervisors in county child welfare agencies provide ongoing professional development to staff, the Division, in partnership with the UNC School of Social Work, created the Spotlight on Practice Series.
Each part in this series of DIY (do-it-yourself) training kits gives supervisors all they need to lead a 30-60 minute training in their agency on an important child welfare topic. Each kit includes facilitation instructions, PowerPoint presentation slides, handouts, and resources to support further learning.
County child welfare supervisors can access these kits through the “Supervisor Resources (My Employees)” section in ncswLearn.org. These kits are also available to those who have been designated by their county DSS agency to have access rights to the “County Training Manager Resources” section of ncwswLearn.org.
Supporting Implementation of the Modified Manual
These kits should help supervisors prepare staff to implement the modified manual. (Note: Because they are designed for 30-60 minute trainings/conversations, these kits cover only key protocol changes—they do not address every clarification or change).
DIY Kits on Other Key Topics
Please Provide Feedback
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The NC Division of Social Services wants to make sure our state’s resource parents get effective, high quality training that helps them meet the needs of the children in their care. Accordingly, earlier this year the Division asked the state’s child-placing agencies to complete a 12-item survey about needs and priorities related to preservice and in-service training for foster parents. The response was strong: 79 of the state’s 100 public and 54 of its 78 private child-placing agencies completed the survey.
Preservice. Although there have been significant changes to foster parent preservice training in recent years, this survey shows this is an area of satisfaction for most agencies. In 2014, the Division began promoting the use of the preservice curriculum TIPS-MAPP (Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence: Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting). Survey responses suggest these efforts have been effective and appreciated.
Most respondents (66%) said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the support provided by the Division around preservice training. Of those who were not, half raised concerns related to the Division’s train-the-trainer course on TIPS-MAPP. Some, for example, felt it was too hard to get into this training. Others (25%) made more general requests for resources and support from the Division (e.g., additional monies to fund travel and purchasing of materials related to preservice training).
In-Service. Close to two-thirds (63%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed foster parents supervised by their agency find it easy to obtain in-service training. Of the few who said their agency’s foster parents experience some degree of difficulty getting in-service training, one third cited scheduling and child care conflicts as challenges and a third described lack of training opportunities.
Most respondents (62%) said in-service training was provided by child-placing agency staff, although some agencies (13%) also use foster parents to deliver training. Others also use community partners (e.g., therapists, GALs, etc.).
Priority Topics. Asked to select from a list of topics the five they believed were the most needed for foster parent in-service training, agencies chose (1) behavior management, (2) mental/behavioral health, (3) trauma-informed parenting, (4) shared parenting/maintaining connections, and (5) sexualized behavior. See the box below for the full list.
LGBTQ Kids in Care. Agencies were also asked what training-related support they need from the Division to meet the needs of children and youth who are LGBTQ. Replies to this question included requests for more training for staff and foster parents about LGBTQ issues in general (32%), cultural sensitivity (16%), the needs of LGBTQ young people and resources to meet those needs (13%), and recruitment both of resource parents who are LGBTQ and parents willing to care for children who are LGBTQ (8%).
Other Support. The survey also inquired about what other support agencies need from the Division related to foster parent in-service training. Many of the 80 suggested topics confirm other survey findings (e.g., desire for training on trauma, etc.). Other topics suggested include autism, special needs, working with adolescents, human/sex trafficking, sexual abuse, safety, and opioids.
The Division’s Response
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Our demanding field requires a special skillset. Child welfare professionals must be able to ensure children are safe and families are supported, even in the face of trauma and other complex concerns. They must be skilled at critical thinking, court testimony, objective documentation, and advocacy. And they have to know how to instill hope, even when families feel hopeless.
For 20 years, our state’s 100 county child welfare agencies have turned to the Child Welfare Education Collaborative (CWEC), a university-based traineeship program, to help them find people with this amazing mix of skills.
What CWEC Grads Bring
Because it covers so much, most new hires in child welfare spend much of their first month on the job in preservice training. For graduates of CWEC, things are different. CWEC is a traineeship program that enables BSW and MSW students to earn their preservice certificate while in school. As a result, they can start work soon after they are hired, yielding significant savings to county agencies.
But CWEC gives graduates more than a preservice certificate. It provides other supplemental training and experiences to better prepare students for work in child welfare.
The effectiveness of CWEC arises from its strong network. The 17 participating universities ensure students obtain all their preservice competencies. (Visit https://cwec.unc.edu/?page_id=137 for a list of participating schools.) County DSS social workers serve as field instructors, ensuring students get a chance to use those competencies with real families. And the CWEC central office deepens and reinforces students’ competencies by providing special training opportunities.
For example, there is “Law Day,” where CWEC partners with the Law School at UNC to give students their “day in court.” At this event, BSW and MSW students play the roles of social workers in a mock case. First and second year law students act as DSS attorneys and prosecutors. For an added touch of realism, CWEC students take the stand in a mock court situation with an actual judge.
Other supplemental trainings for CWEC students include:
Another change is that on July 1, 2017 the UNC School of Social Work’s Family and Children’s Resource Program took on the role of the CWEC central office. Since that time, the central office has been updating the CWEC website to make it more engaging for students. It has also conducted a needs assessment with all current university affiliates to continue to innovate CWEC.
This spring, another crop of 70 students will graduate from CWEC. As the photo above suggests, today’s students are honored to be in the traineeship and dedicated to serving the families involved in child welfare.
To Learn More
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The NC Division of Social Services is proud to offer fosteringNC.org, a learning site for our state’s resource parents. This site features online courses, webinar recordings, videos and podcasts, and answers to frequently asked questions.
Free Online Courses Include:
Child Welfare Services: Overview, Key Terms, and Resources. Part of the “Stakeholder Engagement Series,” this 25-minute course gives a high-level overview and explains how you can get involved in strengthening child welfare services in North Carolina. http://fosteringnc.org/cw101/
A Resource Parent’s Guide to Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). This 1-hour course provides basic information about IDD, the services you may need as a resource parent and where to find them, and best practices for parenting a child or youth with IDD. https://fosteringnc.org/on-demand-courses/
Join the List. To sign up to receive news and updates go to: http://eepurl.com/cEiAYP.
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NC DSS-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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