Supervising Child Protective Services Caseworkers
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau., Caliber Associates. Salus, Marsha K.|
|Year Published: 2004|
Purpose and Overview
Working in the child protective services (CPS) system can be equally rewarding and challenging. Few careers, when performed well, can help improve the lives of so many children and families. On the other hand, when performed poorly, it can exacerbate the risks to the safety and well-being of these clients. CPS supervisors serve as a critical focal point for the successful achievement of agency goals and caseworker practices that strengthen families. Supervisors act as conduits in translating agency objectives into caseworker performance, as well as in using caseworker feedback to inform agency policies and priorities.
Most CPS supervisors begin their career as caseworkers before being promoted to a supervisory position. The belief among some agency administrators is that if a person is a good caseworker, he or she will be a good supervisor. Consequently, most CPS supervisors move into their position with little advanced training, guidance, or support. The transition from caseworker to supervisor is seldom an easy one. As caseworkers, they provided direct services to clients, but as supervisors, they must get the work done through their staff by providing guidance, direction, and coaching. Ideally, what caseworkers take with them into the supervisory position are sound practice knowledge, effective interpersonal skills, the ability to engage others in a working relationship, and the respect of coworkers. However, there are other supervisory knowledge and skills that must be learned. For instance, good supervisors must simultaneously be able to maintain a broad overview across functions and responsibilities, guide caseworkers' professional development, and identify individual and unit strengths and deficits.
CPS supervisors are responsible for ensuring that positive outcomes are achieved for children and families through the delivery of competent, sensitive, and timely services, and that the agency's mission and goals are accomplished. CPS supervisors face a number of challenges. In some instances, practice and policy development lag behind issues in the field. In addition, expectations of agency performance increase even while resources remain level or decline in most States. Further, case situations often are extremely complex and require highly trained and competent staff for effective intervention. This challenge is made more difficult by the fact that agencies typically experience high staff turnover, delays in filling vacancies, and new employees with little preparation for the job.
This manual provides the foundation on which effective CPS supervision is based. Topics include:
- The nature of CPS supervision;
- Making the transition from caseworker to supervisor;
- Building the foundation for effective unit performance;
- Building staff capacity and achieving excellence in performance;
- Supervisory feedback and performance recognition;
- Results-oriented management;
- Clinical supervision;
- Recruitment and retention;
- Managing from the middle;
- Taking care of oneself and the unit.
No single publication can provide all the information needed to promote effective supervisory practice, explore all of the relevant issues, or reflect the multitude of policy and practice variations in place across the country. This manual, however, provides a starting point and a solid foundation for supervising CPS caseworkers. It should be augmented through training, other professional development activities, and experience.
For those who are new to CPS, Appendix D—An Overview of the Child Protection Process contains a flowchart of the CPS intake, investigation, and service provision process. For more indepth information, particularly on types of maltreatment, case planning, assessment of family progress, documentation, and case closure, please refer to the manuals, A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice and Child Protective Services: A Guide for Caseworkers, in the User Manual Series. They are available at http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanual.cfm.
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.