A new training program helps Iowa child welfare supervisors work with caseworkers and communities to improve outcomes for youth transitioning from foster care to independence. The University of Iowa School of Social Work collaborated with the Iowa Department of Human Services, youth, and community partners to develop and implement the "Improving Outcomes for Youth in Transition" project. Project staff conducted focus groups with a variety of stakeholders across the State—including workers, youth, and families—and used that information in developing the curriculum for supervisors. The resulting training materials focused on the following tenets:
- Start early in planning with youth.
- Incorporate positive youth development into supervision and case planning.
- Promote culturally responsive practice with youth.
- Build and sustain permanent connections.
- Develop community collaborations.
Four groups of 25 Iowa child welfare supervisors participated in the supervisor trainings. The supervisors then helped design and deliver 1-day trainings to caseworkers and communities in eight service areas throughout Iowa. The "community day" events gave supervisors and caseworkers the opportunity to train and exchange ideas with lawyers, judges, foster parents, group home staff, school district representatives, and other stakeholders to support youth in making successful transitions from the child welfare system.
Among the participants at supervisor, caseworker, and community trainings were foster care youth representatives from Elevate, a program sponsored by Children and Families of Iowa for youth ages 13+ who have been in the child welfare system. These youth spoke individually and in panels, answering questions and sharing their stories. They made a noticeable impression on caseworkers when they talked about how important caseworkers are to youth—including what they liked and disliked about their own workers.
Short-term evaluation results showed that supervisors and caseworkers made gains in their knowledge about transition planning as a result of the training. The long-term evaluation will focus on whether transition planning improves for youth in Iowa.
The State of Iowa is expecting to receive additional Chaffee funds, with which it hopes to expand the project further in the State and adapt it for training foster and adoptive parents. In the meantime, the content of the training has been integrated into the graduate and undergraduate curricula of the university's social work classes on child welfare.
Reprinted from Children's Bureau Express, "Site Visit: Training Supervisors to Improve Outcomes for Iowa Youth" (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/).