September 2011

Engagement and Supervision


It's amazing to me that after 35 years in child welfare, I can still recall the supervisors and seasoned caseworkers I observed early in my career. It was clear to me that their "styles" or approach with clients varied considerably, but it was the response of clients that really made such an impression on me. Families were more invested in the helping relationship when they were met with kindness, warmth, honesty, and genuine interest. When given the opportunity to be involved in the case process (e.g., to share their perspective on the nature of their issues, to talk about the strengths that existed in their family, to identify what they thought they needed to work on), and when empowered to problem-solve and utilize the resources at their disposal, clients were more receptive to agency intervention.  Their relationships with caseworkers were more positive and they seemed to meet case goals more quickly and with more lasting success. 


The opportunity to witness firsthand the importance of what we're now calling "engagement" made a lasting impression on me. The experience helped me be a more effective caseworker. It also cemented for me, as a supervisor, the importance of making sure my staff engaged families.

Today there's a renewed emphasis on engagement. This comes as a result of the latest Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) findings and Ohio's response to the CFSR, the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). Agencies will be expected to involve families more in case planning and decision-making, and seek out and involve fathers and/or other relatives or support persons who have the ability to contribute to the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families. Ohio's PIP also does something else. It clearly identifies supervisors as the persons responsible for ensuring that engagement is an on-going casework practice.

So, what can you do to ensure that your staff are engaging families? Here are a few ideas:

  • Make certain staff understand the importance of engagement.
  • Assess attitudes regarding engagement during prospective employee interviews.
  • Address engagement during new employee orientation.
  • Discuss what staff learned in the Casework Core module on engagement and how they can use this knowledge on the job. Click here for a description of Casework Core Module II.
  • Review case records for documentation of engagement efforts
  • Use individual supervisory conferences to address engagement issues
  • Use unit meetings to reiterate why client engagement is a necessary component in providing effective casework services.
  • Observe staff with clients to determine whether they possess the necessary engagement skills.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to learn more about engagement and practice their skills.
  • Model the necessary skills. Click here for suggestions on how to model engagement skills.
  • Utilize coaches, lead workers, or other staff who successfully model engagement skills.

And finally, engage your staff because"treatment given to clients of an organization will reflect the way in which employees perceive themselves to be treated by management." (DeJong, Kelly, Berg, & Gonzales, p 5) Click here for more on engaging your staff.    

Distance Learning - What's New


The Ohio Child Welfare Training Program (OCWTP) has been exploring distance learning since 1999 when the program began embedding self-directed learning assignments into curriculum. Since that time, the OCWTP has piloted several types of distance learning courses - non-instructor led courses you can take anytime, anywhere; instructor-led online courses using a computer and phone; and a variety of blended courses that combine on-your-own, computer-based coursework with either a virtual or in-person session with a trainer.


Three New Courses


Family Search and Engagement: Family Search and Engagement (FSE) is the process of searching for and engaging family and kin through a variety of strategies that lead to permanency for youth. This online overview introduces basic concepts of FSE and explores a broader concept of permanency that goes beyond legal adoption. The course introduces five key strategies used in FSE. These five strategies involve specific action steps and considerations that help shape how the worker plans and documents FSE activities as well as engages the youth, their family, and other potential permanency connections for the youth. Click here to view the course.


Concepts on Culture and Diversity: In this online course, learners review basic concepts on culture and diversity and how the two interrelate; learn the concept and significance of "collective membership" (i.e., the fact that most people are members of a number of affiliate groups, and are shaped and influenced accordingly); and come to understand the relevance of learning about their own and their clients' diversity as a prerequisite to effective casework. Click here to view online course.


Effective Home Visits: This is a blended learning course divided into three sessions -Planning for the Home Visit, Conducting the Home Visit, and Documenting and Debriefing the Home Visit. For each session, caseworkers complete a short, self-led, online course at their desk, apply the concepts learned to current cases, and discuss their experiences with a facilitator and colleagues during a two-hour online meeting and conference call. The course includes a Supervisory Companion Guide that provides links to the online content sessions; reviews the field application assignments designed to help caseworkers apply skills learned in the sessions with the families with whom they work; and provides some recommendations of ways supervisors can use the course material with their staff and support them as they apply the skills. Click here to view the guide and preview the three online sessions.



In This Issue
Engagement and Supervision
Distance Learning - What's New
Recruiting Supervisors to Pilot Distance Learning on Home Visits
The Challenges of Implementing Change
New Challenges in Social Networking

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Other Ways the OCWTP is Working for You...

In November 2010, the OCWTP formed a new work group to focus on supervisor issues and how the OCWTP training system can help address those issues. The OCWTP is committed to finding ways to support supervisors as well as providing the kinds of training that will be the most beneficial to them.


The work team is examining the role of supervisors: their needs, training topics that would be helpful to them, and the types of support they require. It is also looking at what resources supervisors currently have available to them, considering the strengths of those resources, and looking at where there may be deficiencies.


Members of the work team include:


Jeffrey Schafer, Cuyahoga

Vincent Ciola, Logan

Jeff Rulon, Highland

Rhonda Hinkle, Muskingum

Natalie Trachsel, Lorain

Robin Freedman, Summit

Valerie Carpico, Fairfield

Dana Dravenstott, Lorain

Rodney Traxler, Wyandot

Chris Cross, North Central Ohio Regional Training Center

Dale Hotaling, Western Ohio Regional Training Center

Alison Rodgers, Central Ohio Regional Training Center

Mary Kay Hawkins, IHS

Lois Tyler, IHS

Stacey Saunders-Adams, IHS

Sandy Parker, IHS


If you're interested in participating on this work team, please contact Sandy Parker at the Institute for Human Services (614-251-6000). sparker@ihs-trainet.com 


Did You Know?

  • Cultural diversity training now meets the three hour ethics requirement for license renewals.
  • You can now bank up to 12 hours of CEUs (beyond the renewal requirement of 30 hours) and use them towards the next renewal period.
  • You can find more information on recent licensing rule changes by clicking here.  CSWMFT 

Recruiting Supervisors to Pilot Distance Learning on Home Visits


As part of the ODJFS PIP, OCWTP field tested

The Effective Use of Home Visits with caseworkers last quarter. This quarter, OCWTP will train supervisors on how to use the materials from the course in supervision, either in unit meetings, or during individual supervision.  Supervisors are invited to attend a GoToMeeting (GTM) Training on Content (TOC) to learn how to use these materials with their staff.  The TOC is tentatively scheduled for September 22.  To participate, supervisors would
 will be required to complete an on-line program that will likely take 3-4 hours on their own time and then attend the GTM that will last about 2 hours.  The total time commitment will range between four to six hours.  The details of the caseworker course are provided below.  If you are interested in participating in the pilot, please contact Nan Beeler at IHS.  You can email her at nbeeler@ihs-trainet.com. 


The Effective Use of Home Visits is a three-part distance learning course for Caseworkers to enhance their skills in making home visits.  The course consists of three sessions: Preparing for Home Visits; Conducting Home Visits; and Documenting and Debriefing Home Visits.  Each session has three parts:  a self-guided PowerPoint presentation that workers will complete at their desks; field assignments to apply the learning with families on their caseloads; and a facilitated GAP (Guided Application and Practice) discussion via GoToMeeting regarding successes, problems, etc. These instructional materials can be used in a variety of ways with supervisors conducting the GAP sessions either with individual workers, or in unit meetings. 






The Challenges of Implementing Change 

Ever notice how challenging it can be to implement change? Whether you're trying to generate an agency-wide shift in practice or just trying to change the way your unit does business, you've probably noticed that change is difficult. Often, the only choice you have about change is how you're going to implement it. Proper planning and preparation can make the change process more manageable for you and those you supervise.


Think about a time when you were involved in implementing change (either as the implementer or someone experiencing the change). When the process was going smoothly, what were the conditions that helped make it so? When things were challenging, what barriers interfered with the process? Quite likely, you've concluded how important it is to have buy-in from staff and administrators and access to resources to support change.


When planning for change, certain questions must be considered, such as:


  1. What is the problem or barrier to be overcome by implementing the change?
  2. Does the proposed change address the problem or barrier?
  3. Is the proposed change the right solution for the problem?
  4. Will the organizational culture and structure support the proposed change? If not, can anything be done to garner support for the change?
  5. Is there buy-in and commitment from administrators? If not, how can you get it?
  6. Is there buy-in from staff? If not, how can you build it?
  7. What is the capacity to evaluate the outcomes of the proposed change?
  8. What is the capacity to train staff and others on the proposed change?
  9. What staff resources are available to implement the proposed change?
  10. What is the capacity to monitor progress?
  11. What policies and procedures are in place to support the proposed change?


The next step in the process is laying the necessary groundwork, or preparing for change. That would certainly include addressing any of the issues that became evident when considering the above questions. For instance, if policies and procedures need to be developed, it's important to have those in place and ready for implementation.


Even with conscientious planning and preparation, change can still be difficult. Through your efforts though, the process will no doubt feel more tolerable. Fewer transition issues will occur too, when you've "done your homework" ahead of time.



Will You Be My Friend?  New Challenges in Social Networking   

By Valerie Carpico, Supervisor Fairfield County Children Services Board 


With the hype on social media, many of us have accounts through social networking tools such as MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. We view this as an opportune time to catch up with old classmates, see how kids have grown, and even keep in touch with our families. As the use of social networking tools expands in the field of social work both in Ohio and across the country, the question emerges "How are we staying true to our ethics?"


There are a few situations to ponder: should I "friend" my boss? Should I accept a friend request from a former client? What about confidentiality? Though we may not be giving identifying information regarding a family name, is it okay to post your thoughts on a day during which you served families and children? I believe the bigger question is-- where is the line drawn between "personal" and "work"?


The mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession's history, are the foundation of social work's unique purpose and perspective (National Association of Social Workers): social media


        • service
        • social justice
        • dignity and worth of the person
        • importance of human relationships
        • integrity
        • competence


The NASW manual discusses our ethical responsibility to our clients. Some points that struck my attention on how it relates to social media and a potential conflict were related to "conflicts of interest." Visit the NASW Code of Ethics to see what they consider to be a conflict of interest.


This code helps us answer questions about whether we should accept "friend" requests from former clients, foster parents, or any other entity regarding the families we serve? There are so many things to consider around social media sites, that truthfully, I could probably write for days on the issues, questions, and ethical dilemmas that this technology brings to child welfare and our social workers.


Let me be clear, I am not against social media sites. I am actually a fan of these sites as a way to keep in contact with family and friends. Just remember to think before you post an update about your bad day, the fun you had on Friday night, or before you decide to accept a friend request from a former client who has been doing well for five years. These certainly can be ethical dilemmas!


My recommendation to all county agencies is to review your policies on social media. Think carefully about the ethical implications around using social media and implement a policy for your agency if you do not have one. Being part of a leadership team encompasses more than just coaching and mentoring your staff. We have a duty to hold workers, and ourselves, to a code of ethics which can be accomplished through clearly written policies and education!



National Association of Social Workers; Retrieved on June 15, 2011, http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp