The Supervisory Training to Enhance Permanency Solutions (STEPS) curriculum helps supervisors develop techniques to lead, support, and positively engage caseworkers in facilitating foster youths' successful transition to adulthood. Developed by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) in partnership with the Office of Foster Care and Adoption at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the STEPS training program is targeted to DCF social work supervisors, equivalent personnel in other State agencies, and staff of contracted program providers to improve their skills and support for youth aging out of the foster care system. The curriculum was developed with input from DCF staff and other providers, youth, foster parents, and an advisory board that provided expertise and insight throughout the project.
The STEPS curriculum is organized into six 6-hour modules that are delivered over the course of 1 year, so participants may apply the skills at work and share their experiences at the next training. The curriculum emphasizes the need for supervisors to use a strengths-based approach when working with their staff and with youth and families. The six modules address:
- Positive youth development
- Community ties and lifelong connections
- Education and workforce
- Mental and physical health needs
- Public safety and the juvenile justice system
- Implications for practice
The final module consists of a facilitated discussion of the need for integrated practice when working with youth. Emphasis is placed on a team-planning and decision-making process that includes the youth, family members, significant adults, professionals, and other "power brokers" whose collaborative efforts can help youth achieve their permanency goals and successfully transition to adulthood. The program also employs a unique assessment tool, the Adolescent Implicit Association Test, designed to help supervisors identify unconscious biases they may have about youth in care and examine the practice implications of those biases for their work in child welfare.
The six modules of the STEPS curriculum were delivered five times in various regions of Massachusetts, reaching a total of 484 participants, 35 of whom attended all six modules. Several evaluation efforts for the project are underway, including a process evaluation and pre- and post-training surveys and interviews. Preliminary findings indicate an overall positive trend in participants' responses, with a majority of participants reporting they would recommend the training to their colleagues. Participants also felt the information sharing and open dialog that occurred during training sessions helped stimulate practice improvements within and across units.
To increase the dissemination of lessons learned during the training, all participants received tools and materials to use with their staff. The project also offers a website featuring the entire STEPS curriculum, an updated manual of State-specific resources for youth, an events calendar, information on promising practices, and more. Also, project staff members are adapting the curriculum to target other professionals that touch the lives of foster youth, including educators, medical and legal professionals, and foster parents.
Reprinted from Children's Bureau Express, "Site Visit: Youth Permanency Training for Supervisors" (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/).