Minnesota's Child Welfare Practice Model Helps Reform Efforts

By Borsheim, Christeen | Policy & Practice, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Minnesota's Child Welfare Practice Model Helps Reform Efforts


Borsheim, Christeen, Policy & Practice


A well-developed, clearly defined child welfare practice model is the basis for child welfare training and reform efforts. As Minnesota implemented its child welfare reform efforts over the last several years, it recognized the need for a practice model. The state's Child Welfare Practice Model strongly influences its current training program for child welfare experts in the field and its future reform efforts throughout the state.

Child welfare reform efforts implemented over time have resulted in a transformation of many of the policies and practice that make up Minnesota's child welfare system today. Recognizing that a system focused on forensic investigations and services directed at high-risk families was a poor match for the growing number of lower-risk neglect concerns, significant efforts began in the mid-1990s to provide services earlier and more broadly to at-risk families. Early reform efforts were largely directed toward the system's response to reports of child maltreatment, allowing for an approach that built on family strengths and engaged parents as partners to secure the safety and well-being of their children. Children and families served through this new approach experienced improved outcomes, and policy and practice shifted from deficit-based, unilateral planning and compliance monitoring to assessment-centered, strength-based and collaborative interventions with families and communities. Building on the experiences and lessons learned through early reform efforts, Minnesota has continued to implement child welfare reforms and new models of practice across a broader spectrum of the child welfare system.

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For reform efforts to be successful and sustainable, there needs to be continued attention to promoting consistency and providing support to the desired model of practice. A primary resource for accomplishing this systemically in Minnesota is the Minnesota Child Welfare Training System, which has responsibility for the initial and ongoing training of county child welfare staff. In recognition of this, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, through the Child Safety and Permanency Division, requested technical assistance from the National Resource Center for Organizational Improvement to assess and recommend improvements to the training system. Of particular interest to the CSP division was ensuring that the training system was:

* Operating at peak effectiveness and according to current best practices in child welfare training

* Providing consistently high value to the child welfare system as a whole

* Developing essential links with quality assurance, child safety, foster care, adolescent services, adoption, information systems and other functions in the division

* Aligning with and building capacity and strategic readiness to support the model of practice that has been and is being implemented through child welfare reform.

Assessment of the training system included all training staff as well as policy and program staff from across the division, and was completed in fall 2008 by the organizational effectiveness consultants of the American Public Human Services Association in conjunction with NRC-OI.

Findings from the assessment set the course for foundational and first-phase improvements to the training system, which were carried out over six months with continued assistance from OE at APHSA:

* Complete the work already started internally to develop a child welfare practice model.

* Develop a continuous improvement plan to include short-, mid- and longterm plans for achieving training system redesign to align with and support the child welfare practice model.

Developing a child welfare practice model is a critical foundation improvement and key to all other training system improvements. The work started internally to define a child welfare practice model as a means to communicate the underlying principles and beliefs of Minnesota's child welfare reform efforts to its county partners and public stakeholders. …

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