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United States. Children's Bureau.
Each synthesis group arranged its recommendations in priority order for consideration by the child welfare field. This section provides a summary of the key recommendations from the groups. It should be Stated that there was considerable overlap among the ten synthesis groups.
- Encourage agencies to establish a "deputy" position that would employ a career public servant. The deputy would provide stability and continuity during leadership changes.
- Develop a list of the characteristics and competencies needed to recruit, retain, and support a high quality child welfare workforce. Train managers and supervisors to attain these competencies.
- Establish peer-to-peer networks of leaders in order to share critical information, best practices, and approaches for producing positive outcomes.
- Create a plan for leadership by working with Schools of Social Work to:
- Incorporate leadership development into Schools of Social Work curriculum;
- Create an open dialogue and partnerships between schools and agencies
- Provide continuing education opportunities for leaders in child welfare to focus on continued development of leadership skills.
- Provide leadership for research initiatives to identify best practices in child welfare supervision, especially those associated with staff retention.
- Address the need for national leadership and resources devoted to developing and sharing incentive strategies, research, and practice.
- Encourage a strong leadership role by State agencies in establishing and maintaining standards for IV-E consortiums.
- Provide an orientation for new State level representatives/legislators so they can learn about the child welfare organization.
- Identify the standards and qualities of a leader. Take the standards and qualities list and give it to new administrations to take into account when appointing a new leader.
- Establish a leadership academy for all supervisors and senior level management.
- Encourage new political appointees to attend orientation/training sessions to learn about the organization's culture, structure and operations. Develop a "cheat sheet" for governors to consider when making appointments to leadership positions.
- Address the organizational need for evaluation and for national dissemination of relevant information to sustain programs.
- Create a strategic liaison for agencies and universities to keep lines of communication open and to be able to troubleshoot issues, such as hiring and internships. Ask agencies what they need to support, develop, and improve the workforce and their organization.
- Address the need for intervention models that provide specificity, e.g., defining worker expectations for work with families.
- Address secondary trauma that is inherent in child welfare work.
- Encourage collaboration between CB's T&TA network and universities. This may ensure more coordination and more effective recruitment strategies.
- Expand learning opportunities for aspiring supervisors as well as those already engaged in supervisory practice. The learning opportunities could include:
- Enhancing supervisory content in MSW programs;
- Expanding post-graduate certificates;
- Expanding continuing education and staff development opportunities; and
- Promoting peer support and learning communities.
- Address the need for more research on appropriate staffing that takes into consideration the current nature of the work, workload standards, and the real costs of worker turnover. Bring child welfare practitioners, child welfare researchers, and universities together to consolidate research, best practice, and training materials.
- Encourage child welfare agencies and Schools of Social Work to make developing culturally competent services/organizations a priority.
- Use technology to support good casework. For example, cell phones, laptops, etc., can allow work to be done outside the office.
- Make sure that systems are intentionally aligned with organization's mission, vision, goals, and values.
Structure and Culture
- Create an organizational culture throughout the child welfare system that values and supports a comprehensive, systemic, strategic approach to communication. This culture will include:
- Communication that supports change management goals, quality service, mission and vision;
- Specific plans for relaying specific information throughout the child welfare system;
- Stepping back to analyze what needs to be communicated and how;
- A multi-media approach;
- Both personal and role-based accountability;
- User-friendly communication for recruitment and retention.
- Three examples of jurisdictions changing their culture are Utah, El Paso County, CO, and New York City.
- Use real-time, interactive information technology systems with useful information on how to operationalize performance management. Three key questions and recommendations follow:
- What are we measuring?
- Data collection methods and measures should be related to the big picture. Accountability should exist at all levels of government and messages should be consistent from the unit-level to the organizational-level.
- The ability to distinguish individual from organizational performance and identify linkages between the two are important considerations. Measures should be outcomes and evidence-based, client-centered, and linked to intended outcomes. Measures should also address organizational resiliency and supervision quality.
- How do we measure and report?
- Data collection method should be based on and directly related to the research questions identified.
- Staff should be aware of and transparent about data limitations and other data quality issues.
- How to best address the use of multiple data sources continues to be a major issue (e.g., Continuous Quality Assurance (CQA) process, etc.). Data should be uniform and comparable across systems to conduct meaningful analyses.
- How can we translate what is being measured into performance improvement? Retention is everyone's responsibility and must be part of performance management. Possible steps are as follows:
- To the extent possible, turn negative outcomes into learning opportunities. For example, clients with positive and negative experiences can become trainers for new staff.
- Use creative and effective communication methods. Be creative in communicating performance to be measured and in making them learning opportunities.
- What are we measuring?
- Create a supportive team where there are opportunities to join pilot programs and projects.
- Have peer-to-peer technical assistance available to supervisors for consultation and support opportunities.
- Establish a multi-track career ladder system to create opportunities for staff to develop their interests and skills, with advanced and specialized practitioners providing mentorship. This provides opportunities for staff to test aptitudes and roles and to move gradually into new jobs in an intentional way.
Rewards and Staffing
- Conduct an assessment of incentives currently in use and develop a policy that supports rewards in each organization.
- Support local award programs for staff and assess what motivates them.
- Take into consideration organizational culture and monetary rewards.
- Provide sufficient resources and tools, support staff, respect from supervisors (random acts of kindness), non-monetary rewards, tuition reimbursement, organizational attention to incentives and rewards, horizontal and vertical career paths.
- Develop a comprehensive approach to address staffing. Define the roles of partners (child welfare agencies, universities, human resources, unions, and Employee Assistance Programs) in addressing issues.
- Provide adequate support for supervisors to give rewards.
- Institute different pay for BSW and MSW.
- Provide professional development through in-service training.
- Invest in the development of agency workers to increase retention.
- Evaluate and develop recruitment strategies that consider education, preparation, and why people would choose a career in child welfare.
- Develop realistic job previews.
- Develop competency-based screening and selection processes.
- Establish an "overhire" capacity to fill vacancies more quickly with trained caseworkers.
- Incorporate cultural competence at all levels of policy, practice, and organization/client outcomes.
- Strengthen child welfare practice by becoming a resource for culturally competent family support.
- Create an environment that promotes learning about other cultures.
- Support professional development of staff to use cultural guides/consultants in order to engage culturally diverse children and families.
- Recruit and hire competent staff from culturally diverse backgrounds and take steps to assure that the agency staffing patterns are reflective of the community served.
- Support the implementation of organizational cultural competence assessments.
- Establish mechanisms to ensure accountability for effective service delivery to culturally diverse families and communities.
- Find ways to engage entire communities in working towards safety, permanency and child and family well-being.
- Encourage stakeholders to think of ways to embrace clients' voices as an important ingredient of the community.
- Rethink ways to involve the broader community in the practice and classroom education of social workers. Consider how different pieces of information are shared with media about public child welfare and how we can work with the broader community on understanding social work care and social work education at all levels.
- Encourage clients to participate as trainers for new staff.
- Promote Youth Advisory Councils.
- Promote positive relationships with the private agencies that are a part of the system.
- Educate people in rural areas about successful recruitment and retention strategies.
- Establish branch campuses with Social Work faculty.
- Develop MSW programs in rural areas.
- Address how social work is viewed in the media.
- Constantly and effectively communicate what the public should expect from the child welfare agency before crisis happens.
- Utilize creative, alternative methods for dealing with external communications, e.g., newspapers, television, and legislators. Examples include:
- Instituting "ride along," a training tool in which an individual accompanies a social worker while on duty to learn more about the job;
- Hiring media experts for organizations.
- Develop ongoing relationships with social work journals, newspapers, and editorial boards.
- Listen to clients. Prevent client from feeling abandoned by introducing him/her to new worker before the old one leaves.
- Educate the general public about issues relevant to the child welfare workforce, such as increased case loads, caseworker retention, and lack of incentives for those in this field. This may promote mutual coordination, cooperation and communication among foster parents, child care agencies, and other child advocates.
- Hire foster parents to help educate people about the difficulty of the work.
- Identify and use vehicles of internal communication among all levels of the organization to facilitate open, two-way communication.
- Model active communication within the agency. Purposefully provide opportunities for staff to receive and offer feedback. Also provide opportunity for staff to share their thoughts privately and confidentially.
- Regularly assess and review effectiveness of communication efforts.