Training Matters


Vol. 20, No. 1 May 2019

Update on NC's Child Welfare Supervisor Academy

Last year, Training Matters introduced the Supervisor Academy, which was developed and piloted as part of North Carolina’s federal Program Improvement Plan (PIP). This article provides an update on the Academy, which became available to all 100 North Carolina counties in January 2019.

Courses in the Academy
Initially, the Supervisory Academy consisted of three courses:

  1. Nuts and Bolts of Child Welfare Supervision,
  2. Using Data to Improve Practice and Performance, amd
  3. Using Data to Improve Practice and Performance with Community Partners.

These courses were developed in a collaborative effort involving the NC Division of Social Services (NCDSS), Methodist University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work, and the NC Association of County Directors of Social Services’ Supervisory Workgroup.

In 2017 and 2018 these courses were offered to child welfare supervisors from ten pilot counties. In all, 92 individuals completed these courses, exceeding the PIP goal of 80. (To see a list of these individuals, click here.)

Today the vision for the Supervisor Academy has expanded to include all NCDSS-sponsored courses for supervisors and agency leaders. As the figure below shows, the Academy is organized into three Tiers, each of which includes classroom-based and online courses.

Lessons from the Pilot
North Carolina learned important lessons from piloting the three initial Academy courses. For example, although supervisors are and will continue to be a primary focus, the pilot underscored how valuable Academy courses can be to anyone in a county leadership position. Therefore, course descriptions are now being adjusted to ensure DSS directors, program administrators, and program managers understand they are welcome and encouraged in Supervisor Academy courses.

The pilot also proved how useful it is for county leaders and supervisors to develop a coverage plan prior to an Academy event. Taking this step ensures learners can be fully present and do not have to step out of class to handle emergencies.

Also, based on input from pilot participants and others, Academy content about data has been streamlined. The two initial courses on data have been combined into a single course called Using Data to Improve Practice and Performance.

While it is clear participants and their agencies find tremendous value in the Academy, the pilot showed that steps may be needed to attract participants. To this end, North Carolina is currently exploring a certification process and other incentives for participating in the Academy.

Evaluation & Focus Groups
North Carolina evaluated the three Supervisor Academy courses piloted in 2017 and 2018. Subject matter experts assessed these courses using Kirkpatrick’s Training Evaluation Model, which is a proven method for objectively analyzing the impact of training, determining what participants learned, and improving learning in the future.

Because the response rate for the post-pilot survey was not sufficient to fully assess behavior changes or results, two focus groups were conducted to seek additional feedback from pilot participants. Focus group findings included the following:

  • Supervisors reported positive behavioral change using techniques such as small tests of change (from Using Data), coaching, team-building activities, and the use of data to evaluate practice.
  • The most commonly reported barriers to implementing lessons learned through the training were employee issues (e.g., turnover, resistance).
  • While participants used the Transfer of Learning (TOL) tool to reflect and report on their experiences, this tool has yet to be fully embraced as a lever for behavioral change.
  • Supervisors reported the training improved the quality of their supervision. Specifically, the training helped supervisors develop new tools to use with staff and shifted supervisors’ focus on staff professional development. For example, one supervisor said the “Supervision Triad” (from Nuts and Bolts) helped her differentiate between supervision to staff cases and supervision focused on social worker development.
  • Supervisors reported a positive impact on their coaching skills. Several said they now used coaching to empower staff to come up with solutions, which in turn provides a model for workers to use with families.
  • Barriers to consistently using coaching included the challenge of breaking established routines and making a commitment to doing things differently while still meeting everyday demands.

Through conversations with those implementing the pilot, evaluators identified system-level variables likely to influence the future success of the Supervisor Academy. For example:

  • Because supervisors work hard to meet expectations and practice standards, it is critical that policy and practice guidance are clear.
  • When new polices or practices are implemented, supervisory administrative and practice guidance should also be considered.
  • North Carolina should consider identifying staff with supervisory potential as early as possible. For instance, it might employ a systematic, structured, competency-based process that uses a realistic job preview.
  • Agencies should select supervisors based on competence, not longevity.
  • Additional attention is needed to ensure NCDSS has the capacity to support supervisors in applying the skills and principles taught in all Academy courses.

Looking Forward
As the findings of the pilot evaluation indicate, North Carolina’s Supervisor Academy is off to a promising start. This is a good thing, because our state is reforming its child welfare system and will soon select a practice model framework. Faced with these changes, supervisors and agency leaders will want to stay abreast and build the skills they need to retain their workforce and achieve positive outcomes for children and families. For county supervisors and leaders looking ahead, the Supervisor Academy is sure to be a go-to resource.

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What Is a Child Welfare Practice Model?

When it passed Rylan’s Law (HB 630) in 2017, North Caro­lina’s legislature called upon the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the Office of State Budget and Management to contract with a third‑party organization to develop a plan to reform our state’s social services system. Rylan’s Law specifically asked that the reform plan include recommendations to ensure North Carolina’s child welfare system has a trauma-informed, culturally competent, family-centered practice framework.

What is a practice framework?
The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organi­zational Improvement and the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections define a practice framework (also called a practice model) this way:

A child welfare practice model is a conceptual map and organizational ideology of how agency employees, families, and stakeholders should unite in creating a physical and emotional environment that focuses on the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and their families. The practice model contains definitions and explanations regarding how the agency as a whole will work internally and partner with families, service providers, and other stakeholders in child welfare services. A practice model is the clear, written explanation of how the agency successfully functions.

The practice model is prescriptive in how services should be provided as articulated in agency regulations, policies, and procedures, yet allows for appropriate flexibility and professional discretion to support effective casework practice. It includes the practice activities and rationale that form the case process.

Simply stated, the practice model should make an explicit link connecting the agency’s policy, practice, training, supervision, and quality assurance with its mission, vision, agency values, and strategic plan; the agency’s practice model applies to each of these pieces and throughout the life of a case. It is the agency’s guide to the daily interactions among employees, children, families, stakeholders, and community partners.

What are the benefits of a practice framework?
Based on interviews with agencies using practice models, the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement and the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections concluded that practice frameworks:

  • Help ensure all agency staff know what their jobs are and how to do them. Practice frameworks provide stable expectations and priorities.
  • Help agency staff, families, and other stakeholders (e.g., courts, providers, etc.) understand the agency’s purpose and what it does.
  • Help align service provision, training, quality assurance, and policy creation under the same philosophical vision. This promotes consistency.
  • Help ensure staff at every level know agency procedures, policies, and practices and the rationale behind them. This enables staff to hold themselves and others accountable.
  • Help staff make critical decisions when unusual circumstances arise.

Are any NC agencies currently using a practice framework?
The NC Division of Social Services has been exploring possible practice models and has identified three possible ones to use: (1) Solution-Based Casework, (2) Signs of Safety, and (3) Safety Organized Practice. Several North Carolina counties are already implementing or considering implementing one of these three models.

What has occurred under Rylan’s Law?
In accordance with Rylan’s Law, North Carolina contracted with the Center for the Support of Families (CSF) to develop a social services reform plan. In August 2018, CSF released a preliminary plan that included the follow­ing recommendation:

The state and CSF should begin immediately to further explore the fit and feasibility of adapting and effectively implementing Safety Organized Practice (SOP) as the comprehensive statewide practice framework to create consistency in child welfare practice that is trauma-informed, culturally-competent, family-centered, and safety-focused throughout North Carolina.

CSF also recommended that whatever practice framework North Carolina adopts should include:

  • an expedited, streamlined licensure process for foster parents, relatives, and kin caregivers;
  • specific expectations related to the engagement of birth families in the planning processes and provision of services provided to their children while in foster care;
  • specific support that older youth in foster care need;
  • a specific approach to child and family teams (CFTs) to align with a family-centered, culturally-competent, trauma-informed, safety-focused child welfare system;
  • and the structured decision making (SDM) process and tools as needed

What happens next?
NCDHHS has been working with North Carolina counties and other stakeholders in response to CSF’s August 2018 report, including the practice framework recommendations. NCDHHS looks forward to reviewing a second, more detailed reform plan due from CSF in spring 2019.

Where can I learn more?

  1. Click here to read CSF’s August 2018 report.
  2. Click here for more about practice frameworks.
  3. Click here for more about Safety Organized Practice.

National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement & National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections. (2008). An introduction to the practice model framework. Available at


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County Trainers Co-Facilitate Pre-Service Training

The NC Division of Social Services Child Welfare Services (NCDSS) Staff Development Team is now collaborating with county DSS trainers to deliver Child Welfare in North Carolina: Pre-service, the required training for new North Carolina child welfare workers and supervisors. This effort, which promotes the timely onboarding of new hires, allows county training staff to co-lead Pre-service once they have completed a thorough approval process.

The Approval Process
Interested counties begin by nominating staff members with relevant experience (e.g., making formal presentations, speaking on topics as a subject matter expert, facilitating and debriefing learning activities). Nominees should have specific areas of child welfare expertise (e.g., family-centered casework, service planning, etc.) and must describe their strengths and needs as instructors.

Approved nominees must then complete four phases before they are certified to co-train Pre-service:

Phase 1: Attend the course as a participant/observer and debrief each day with NCDSS trainers. (Includes participating in the online portion.)

Phase 2: Attend a “Train the Trainer” session.

Phase 3: Meet with NCDSS trainers to discuss course material and complete the Partnership Planning Tool.

Phase 4: Co-facilitate the curriculum with NCDSS trainers.

Train-the-Trainer (TTT)
The TTT is an in-person, multi-day session facilitated by NCDSS trainers. The objective is to provide the “big picture” of delivering effective training—from preparation, to delivery, to conclusion and debriefing. The TTT covers training theory (e.g., adult learning principles) and delves into concepts such as the difference between training and facilitating, the importance of questions, and managing training events. The TTT ends with an overview of Pre-service, including facilitation of the online portion.

Counties Involved
Currently 11 counties have nominated individuals to co-facilitate Pre-service. All nominees have been through the TTT and are in Phase 3 or 4. Once certified to lead Pre-service, co-facilitators must deliver it at least twice a year; these events must be open to other counties. To maintain training fidelity, qualified county co-facilitators consent to periodic monitoring, observation, and feedback.

This collaboration between NCDSS and county child welfare agencies will increase our capacity to deliver Pre-service to new county social workers, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families in North Carolina.

If Your County Is Interested . . .
Please contact the NC Division of Social Services’ Kathy Dobbs (

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Archived Webinars Support Child Welfare Practice in NC

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 example below illustrates.

  • ICPC Overview: Improving Outcomes for Children (March 2019). The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is an important tool for ensuring safety, permanency, and well-being for children with potential caregivers who do not reside in the same state. This webinar provides an overview of the ICPC process and offers strategies for avoiding errors and responding to common ICPC challenges.

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DIY Kits Offer an Easy Way to Teach about Key Child Welfare Topics

Child welfare supervisors are responsible for ensuring the people they send out to work with families and children have the skills and knowledge they need to do the job right.

To support them, in 2017 the NC Division of Social Services introduced a new kind of training resource in our state: 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 of These kits are also available to those who have been designated by their county child welfare agency to have access rights to the “County Training Manager Resources” section of

New in 2019
This spring, the NC Division of Social Services, in partnership with the UNC School of Social Work, will introduce new DIY kits on these topics:

Confidentiality. Explores how to protect client information and when county DSS agencies can and should release confidential information.

Foster Care 18-21. Explains how this program fits into LINKS programming and agency efforts to help all youth in foster care become successful, independent adults.

LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care. Explains the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, teaches strategies for affirming LGBQ youth in foster care and recruiting supportive resource families for these youth. Also covers common risk factors faced by transgender youth and teaches strategies for supporting them and their caregivers.

What Do NC Child Welfare Supervisors Say?

This was my first time using one of the DIY kits. It was well received by staff and I can't think of any way to improve it at this time. I felt I had all the tools necessary for a successful training!

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The information in this training is FABULOUS! It is well organized and I loved having the PowerPoint and handouts ready. It makes my job so much easier. Loved the case examples as well.

DIYs Mean Training Credit
DIY kits can be used to help county child welfare staff meet the 24-hour continuing education requirement. Individuals can add DIY trainings to their training histories by logging in to and going to My Personal Learning Portfolio (PLP) / Training Attendance History / Add a Training.

Your Feedback Is Key
After using a kit with staff, supervisors are encouraged to complete the short, three-question online feedback tool found here: Your candid feedback (pro or con) will help ensure these kits are helpful to you and your agency.

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Child Welfare Resources to Know About

The North Carolina Division of Social Services offers a host of guidance to assist our state’s child welfare professionals in their essential work with children and families. This includes the kind of North Carolina-specific resources profiled in this and every issue of Training Matters, as well as ongoing partnership and support from the Division’s Children’s Program Representatives, Program Monitors, and others.

But the child welfare resources available to you and your agency are not limited to those offered in our state. Below are just a few you and your agency should know about.

  • Child Welfare Information Gateway. Your first stop for all things child welfare. A service of the Children’s Bureau, this site provides access to print and electronic publications, websites, databases, and online learning tools for improving child welfare practice, including resources that can be shared with families.

  • National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. Exists to build the capacity of the nation’s child welfare workforce and improve outcomes for children and families. Focuses on increasing practice effectiveness through workforce systems development, organizational interventions, and change leadership, using data-driven capacity building, education, and professional development. Don’t miss MyNCWWI, a companion to NCWWI’s website where you can access the best and most current workforce development resources.

  • CapLEARN. This is the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative’s tool that provides access to training, knowledge, and skills to promote professional leadership development. Features a webinar and video library as well as online courses about continuous quality improvement (CQI), chronic neglect, child and youth sex trafficking, ICWA compliance, family empowerment, and more.

  • National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Exists to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. A great source for professionals and parents on trauma-informed care, treatments, and practices. A highlight is NCTSN’s Learning Center, which offers information and courses about transition issues for young children in foster care, domestic violence, and more.

  • California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. Features a searchable database of child welfare-related programs with descriptions and information on research evidence for specific programs. Also offers guidance on how to make critical decisions regarding selecting and implementing programs, as well as tools and materials to provide support for choosing, implementing, and sustaining a program.

  • Center on the Developing Child. Based at Harvard University, this center communicates complex ideas in simple, usable ways and in a variety of forms. They offer briefs, multimedia, presentations, reports & working papers, tools, and guides on topics such as brain architecture, executive function, mental health, neglect, resilience, and toxic stress.

  • AdoptUSKids. Provides an array of resources to families and professionals. Child welfare caseworkers and agency managers and administrators can use this site to access publications and archived webinars on topics ranging from finding families to working with diverse communities. AdoptUSKids has a program to help minority leaders develop, and it also helps agencies improve their ability to recruit and support families and help children.

  • Key Resources for Child Welfare Professionals. This article by the Annie E. Casey Foundation highlights ten key resources, including “Keeping the Conversation Alive,” a handout you can use to help connect youth in foster care to a permanent family, and “Engaging Kinship Caregivers with Joseph Crumbley,” a five-part training series designed to help child welfare professionals better understand and address the unique needs of relative caregivers.

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NC Provides Free, High-Quality Online Training for Resource Parents

The appeal is clear to Barry Ginn. “ is a way to take a relevant course without having to arrange child care or take time off,” Ginn says. “Resource parents can take it right from home once the kids are in bed. Plus, it’s free.”

Ginn, a foster parent in Wilson County, is not alone. Since it launched in March 2017, more than 12,000 others from all over North Carolina have used to obtain training credit and information.

According to Michelle Reines, Foster Home Licensing Manager for the NC Division of Social Services (NCDSS), this is exactly what North Carolina hoped for when it built the site.

“There are more than 7,000 foster parents in our state. Each needs 10 hours of training a year to maintain their license.” In addition, Reines says, there are thousands of adoptive parents and kinship caregivers in NC.

To support resource parents, is stocked with webinar recordings, videos, podcasts, answers to frequently asked questions, and high-quality courses like the ones shown in the box at the end of this article.

Site Fun Facts

Users: 12,000+ since March 2017. They come from all over NC.

Tech: Most log in on computers, but phones (32.6%) are also popular.


Future Plans
While it is pleased by the extent to which is serving foster and adoptive parents and kinship caregivers, NCDSS hopes the number using the site will continue to grow.

To this end, NCDSS is expanding the amount of helpful content on the site. Decisions about what to add are guided by a group of stakeholders that includes foster and adoptive parents serving on NC’s Child Welfare Family Advisory Council and representatives from the Foster Family Alliance of NC (FFA-NC), a statewide resource parent association.

Working with the UNC School of Social Work, NCDSS is developing courses on supporting the transition to adulthood for youth in foster care and on responding to youth with thoughts and behaviors of suicide or self-injury. Both courses will be added to by July 2019.

Communicating with Users
To help users stay up on all the site has to offer, NCDSS sends occasional email updates. To receive these, visit and subscribe.
Please Spread the Word!

If you work for a public or private foster care or adoption agency, please make an ongoing effort to steer resource parents to for their required annual in-service hours. This will do more than help them meet licensing standards.

Because it offers high-quality training on child development, trauma, and other topics, has the potential to help parents more effectively meet the needs of children in their care. This, in turn, will help your agency’s performance.

If you have questions about, please contact Kathy Dobbs (

A Sampling of Courses Found on

A Resource Parent’s Guide to Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 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.

Child Development and the Effects of Trauma. This series features six, 1-hour courses. They focus on how caregivers can support healthy child development in infancy, early childhood, school-age, and adolescence. The series also explores ways to support youth whose development has been disrupted by trauma.

How Loss Impacts Youth in Foster Care. This 1-hour course focuses on how foster families can support healthy communication and improve overall relationships with youth and children who have experienced losses.

Learning to Support, Include, and Empower LGBTQ Youth in Substitute Care. This 4-hour course will help resource parents provide support and affirmation to youth in foster care when it comes to their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Promoting Normalcy. This 1-hour course describes the reasonable and prudent parent standard and how foster parents can use it to help children and youth in their care experience “normal,” developmentally-appropriate activities.

Supporting Successful Visits. Parent-child visits are one of the best tools for maintaining connections and reunifying families safely. In this 3-course series, resource parents will learn how to support youth throughout the visitation process while managing common concerns such as trauma reminders and behavioral challenges.

To access these courses, visit

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NCDSS-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 ~