Supervising Child Protective Services Caseworkers
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau., Caliber Associates. Salus, Marsha K.|
|Year Published: 2004|
Taking Care of Oneself and the Unit
Whenever an individual moves into a new position, there is a lot of excitement, enthusiasm, and fear. When caseworkers are promoted to supervisory positions, they may go from feeling competent and confident to feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. It is a time of opportunity and challenge combined with learning and adjustment. Guidance, support, and training may be limited when making the transition from caseworker to supervisor. This chapter provides self-help strategies for managing others toward achieving the outcomes of safety, permanency, and well-being for children and families while also promoting a positive work environment.
In order to manage staff effectively, supervisors must:
- Possess the necessary knowledge regarding management theory, practice, methods, and techniques;
- Use appropriate management techniques (e.g., giving effective feedback, managing conflict, and monitoring achievement of outcomes);
- Possess self-awareness (e.g., insight regarding what the supervisor is contributing to the problems in his or her unit).
Many States provide child protective services (CPS) supervisors with training designed to enhance their knowledge and skills in the critical areas of supervisory or management effectiveness. Some staff development and training units in State social service agencies develop their own supervisory curriculum and provide training to staff. Other States contract with organizations that have existing child welfare supervisory and management training programs. Some of these organizations are listed in Appendix B—Resource Listings of Selected National Organizations Concerned with Child Maltreatment. Unfortunately, training for new CPS supervisors may not be available for many months after promotion. In such instances, supervisors should talk with their manager and other experienced supervisors to determine the expectations of the job, the essential components of the position, and strategies for getting started.
There are numerous education and training resources beyond what is offered through the State. For instance, supervisors can benefit from graduate-level courses on supervision offered by schools of social work. There are numerous management seminars offered across the country that focus on specific aspects of management effectiveness (e.g., motivating employees, handling performance problems, giving feedback, managing conflict, team building). Many excellent publications also are available that can help enhance overall supervisory effectiveness.
Everyone experiences stress. It affects almost every daily activity. A certain amount of stress can be beneficial. It can prompt energy or activity and enhance productivity. Excessive amounts of stress, however, can be debilitating. To manage personal stress and help staff deal with it, supervisors must be aware of on-the-job stressors, understand how they and their staff respond to the stressors, and determine how to use stress reduction techniques. It is important for supervisors to assess how each staff member reacts to stress and to assist the individual to implement the techniques that reduce negative physical or psychological reactions.
Equally important is how the person views the stressful situation. Each individual responds to situations differently. Situations at work that seem overwhelming and highly stressful to one person may provide exactly the challenge another staff person may be seeking.
|Proactive Approach to Stress Management|
Stress in inherent in CPS work. Thus, supervisors need to recognize how they respond to the stressors and know techniques for stress reduction. It also is important to take a proactive approach to stress management and to engage in activities to prevent its build up. Such techniques include:
By demonstrating and encouraging a proactive approach to stress management, supervisors can serve as a role model for staff in learning how to take better care of themselves physically and psychologically.
Whenever one takes on a new job, there is a learning curve. Most new supervisors feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they face and wonder how they are going to get everything accomplished in an 8- or even a 10-hour day. Over time, new supervisors find ways to work more efficiently or at least guard their time more carefully to minimize waste.
There are many activities that supervisors cannot control, such as agency meetings and crises. However, it is important to use organizational skills to exercise some control over other activities. Some tips for increasing productivity through better time management include:
- Use time efficiently while remaining flexible. Try to not let circumstances control how time is spent.
- Organize time to work steadily toward a goal or project.
- Set priorities on a daily basis.
- Avoid "anticipatory dread." Supervisors sometimes think ahead to activities or tasks that they do not like and dwell on the negative feelings. The feelings associated with this task can lead to distortion and can blow it out of proportion.
- Organize when in charge of a meeting (e.g., have an agenda with staff input, keep on time, and remain on task).
- Group similar tasks together.
- Find the best way to complete a task in the least amount of time.
- Identify and eliminate time-wasting activities.79
CPS intervention is an inherently stressful situation for everyone—children, families, and caseworkers. As one of the most crucial positions in CPS, the supervisor's job can be very demanding. It can also be equally rewarding. A skilled supervisor is able to guide and to mentor caseworkers to reach their potential. This, in turn, will help children and families by ensuring that CPS interventions and services are conducted by technically proficient, caring, and culturally competent caseworkers. By providing direction, leadership, and creating a supportive work atmosphere, a good supervisor significantly contributes to achieving the outcomes of safety, permanency, and well-being for all children and families.
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