Academic journal article Child Welfare

A Clinical Consultation Model for Child Welfare Supervisors

Academic journal article Child Welfare

A Clinical Consultation Model for Child Welfare Supervisors

Article excerpt

This article presents findings from a consultation project conducted by faculty from six schools of social work with approximately 150 child welfare supervisors over a two-year period. The purpose of the program was to assist supervisors with their roles as educators, mentors, and coaches for casework staff, specifically in relationship to case practice decisions. The consultation model, the development of the curriculum, the project implementation, and the results of the initial assessment are described.

This article presents findings from a consultation project conducted by faculty from six schools of social work with approximately 150 child welfare supervisors over a twoyear period. The purpose of the Clinical Consultation for Child Welfare Supervisors program was to assist supervisors with their roles as educators, mentors, and coaches for casework staff, specifically in relationship to case practice decisions. The program was embedded within the context of a social work/public agency partnership devoted to stabilizing and professionalizing the child welfare workforce. In this article, we delineate the consultation model, the development of curriculum, the project implementation and the results of the initial assessment of the project at the end of two years.

The program's focus on supervision was a purposeful one. First, research on supervision has not received wide attention in the recent past. In a recent review of the empirical research in supervision, Tsui (1997) found that only 30 journal articles or book chapters on the subject were published between 1970 and 1995. In addition, in the child welfare system, staff turnover at the case work/ case manager level is substantial, and training does not have the same return on investment as training at the supervisory level, precisely because of the problem of lack of workforce attachment at the casework level. This project was timely both in dedicating resources to supervisory training and in the effort to evaluate the impact of the consultation intervention on supervisory staff.

There appears to be general agreement in the literature that supervision in child welfare has increasingly become administrative or agency-centered in nature, as the demands for accountability have increased the paperwork requirements (Clare, 1988; Scott & Farrow, 1993; Tsui, 1997), making it more difficult for the caseworker to spend time with clients and for the supervisor to attend to direct practice concerns in supervision. This development has its roots in a number of historical developments, such as creating huge public human resource agencies in the 1930s and after (Brashears, 1995), an emphasis on child protective services in child welfare after the 1970s, and preoccupation with statutory obligations (Scott & Farrow, 1993). A review of the research evidence about supervisory structure and practice has led to the conclusion that supervision in child welfare is inadequate, especially in its lack of emphasis on case planning and the quality of direct services. Where it exists it tends to be either crisis-driven or administrative in nature (Clare, 1988). The need for a new direction in child welfare is supported by a number of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners (Hopkins, Mudrick, & Rudolph, 1999; Maluccio & Anderson, 2000; Tracy & Pine, 2000).

The emphasis on administrative supervisory practice was characteristic of practice in New York City at the time this project was initiated. Two developments in child welfare in New York City made this project especially timely, however. One, when this project began in 2002, New York City was in the sixth year of a major effort to reform the child welfare system. In 1996, the city had created a new, commissioner-level agency for children which was monitored by an independent oversight panel. This resulted in a number of initiatives, including a major emphasis on training and professionalizing the workforce. …

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