July 2012

Achieve Balanced Supervision


Supervisors have expressed concern that much of their time is spent in meetings and on other administrative duties, leaving little time to provide direct consultation and supervision of their staff. This concern was validated by a 2004 study that found over half of the child welfare supervisors in the study reported they spent most of their time on administrative tasks, but that most of them preferred to spend their time doing educational or supportive supervision (Knueppel).



Types of Supervision


There are three types of supervision, each of which has a purpose in ensuring positive outcomes for the agency and the children and families it serves.  For balanced supervision, supervisors should aim to spend 30% - 40%  of their time in each area. Alfred Kadushin, a pioneer in social work supervision, conceptualized casework supervision as consisting of three functional roles (Potter & Brittain, 2009; Kadushin & Harkness, 2002):


Administrative Supervision "focuses on the efficient and effective delivery of services to achieve agency goals."  It is "planning, executing, monitoring, and evaluating activities to accomplish the work of the agency through the staff." http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/policy/index.html?i__e__standards_for_supervisio.htm


Educational Supervision is teaching caseworkers what they need to know in order to do the job, developing their "capacity and competence to perform their work tasks in accordance with practice expectations and standards" (Kadushin 2002, p. 129). It reduces knowledge and skill barriers to staff performance and outcome achievement, and educates staff to be able to perform their job duties in a more knowledgeable and skilled manner. 


Supportive Supervision is encouraging, strengthening, and empowering [caseworkers] to be productive, committed, mission focused, and motivated to perform high-quality work. It "provides support, sustenance, and motivation" to staff to improve their performance, "creating a psychological and physical climate that enables staff to feel positive about the job, so that clients may be better served" (DePanfilis & Salus 2003, p. 13). Supportive supervision is intended to help caseworkers increase job effectiveness, manage reactions to the work, have realistic expectations for their job performance, and increase their motivation and commitment to child welfare.


For a list of examples of each of these areas of supervision, click here.


Mark Hartford, long-time OCWTP trainer on supervision and management issues, used "Squeeze out the Stupid" to help supervisors understand that administrative tasks, albeit important, can consume a disproportionate amount of supervisors' time.  Supervisors cannot simply react to the demands of the job, but instead must proactively engage in all three types of supervision to be effective.



How do you know if you are balancing your time in each area of supervision?


Complete these activities to understand how you are spending your time. There are two options for assessment:


1.    Survey of Skills Inventory

Click here to complete a survey of skills inventory that helps you identify how you are spending your time.  Scoring instructions are provided.  Once you complete the assessment and review your score, you can start to reflect on areas in which you can improve.


2.    Task Analysis

Click here to access an assessment to help you analyze all tasks, processes, forms and meetings to identify your current priorities. 


Successful supervision is doing the hard work in the smartest way possible. These assessments can help supervisors identify ways to improve their work. Prioritizing the mission-critical and mandated activities in the day-to-day work is a strategic activity for all supervisors.  As new activities emerge and less critical activities drop away, supervisors should regularly re-examine activities to improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of their work.


If you would like to review some strategies for increasing the efficiency of your work, click here.


Ask a Supervisor


In this, and in future editions of the newsletter, you will find a segment devoted to helping supervisors meet the challenges of the job.  The questions will come from you, child welfare supervisors. The supervisor work team - some of your peers and members of the OCWTP staff- will suggest solutions to your questions or concerns.  If you have a challenge you'd like us to address, email us at ssaunders-adams@ihs-trainet.com or sparker@ihs-trainet.com.

"I want to ensure my staff attend training they need. How can I assess what they know and  identify areas in which they need further development so I can help them select training and learning activities to meet their needs?"

The Individual Training Needs Assessment (ITNA) is an excellent tool for identifying areas in which staff need additional knowledge or skill.  To accurately complete a training needs assessment, supervisors must have a thorough understanding of what their staff already know and be able to identify areas in which they need to grow.  When supervisors recognize the knowledge and skills their workers already possess, they can better engage in collaborative conversations with their workers to identify training needs.  There are multiple ways a supervisor can assess worker knowledge and skill, many of which are listed below. The most comprehensive method of assessment includes a combination of these.


1.       Conversations with Workers:

One way supervisors can assess what workers know is to have conversations about particular concepts or processes with the workers. During case conferences, individual supervision, group supervision or impromptu consultation, supervisors can ask workers to describe how to do a process, or explain why a process is so important.  Supervisors must use questions like: "How did you make that decision?", "Talk to me about your thinking behind...", "Tell me what you think 'protective factor' means...", or "How do you determine if a child is safe?" to determine workers' level of knowledge. These conversations require supervisors to use open-ended questions that require workers to articulate what they know.  Questions that might not be helpful here are closed-ended questions such as "You know how to make that decision, right?", "Do you know what a protective factor is?", or "Do you know how to determine if a child is safe?"  Sometimes, people don't know what they don't know, so asking closed-ended questions might not produce accurate results.


2.       Field Observation:

One of the best ways supervisors can assess the knowledge and skills of their workers is to observe them in the field. Field observation to assess knowledge and skill is done somewhat differently than observation for other purposes. While observing workers in the field, supervisors can ascertain how workers interact with families and/or children, what strategies workers use to gather information or to promote case plan progress, and if the worker is able to accurately assess safety and risk.


Prior to conducting field observation, supervisors must be clear about the purpose of the observation. Supervisors use field observation to do coaching and mentoring, to assess workers' skills and often times to help workers with a challenging case.  


Caution-- Supervisors are often promoted because they were good caseworkers, so it is easy for them to very naturally interject during home visits, court hearings, or other field observations and "take over" the experience.  Unfortunately, this does not allow workers an opportunity to demonstrate what they know, nor does it allow  supervisors to assess their workers' knowledge and/or skill.  Because worker style differs, supervisors must allow the event to occur as the worker would have it progress and discuss the event afterward noting strengths and areas of growth.


3.       Review of Documentation:

Another method supervisors can use to assess workers' knowledge is to review workers' documentation. Through a review of documentation such as court reports, SACWIS case notes, and CAPMIS tools in SACWIS, supervisors can identify areas where information is lacking or incorrect. Through conversations, supervisors can then determine if the issues with documentation result from gaps in knowledge or skill, or if there are other reasons the documentation is lacking (i.e. time, technology barriers, etc.).


In This Issue
Achieve Balanced Supervision
Ask a Supervisor
Supervisor Survey
Welcome to E-track
Quit and Stayed

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 Welcome to E-Track!




E-Track is the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program's online learning management system that allows you to:


  • instantly access your training record and transcript;
  • search and register for training opportunities;
  • see a list of sessions for which you're already registered
  • complete online learning evaluations
  • receive digital training completion certificates

PCSA foster caregivers and adoptive parents have this same functionality, and are receiving their own welcome message to E-Track!


You have the ability to do the above, and also instantly access your staff's individual training records, including historical transcripts and current enrollment.  You will receive email notification when any of your staff registers to attend an OCWTP learning, and have the ability to withdraw that registration.  If you are considered the "supervisor" of your foster caregivers and adoptive parents, you will also have this ability.


Even more E-Track functionality is on the way!  Distance learning will soon be incorporated into E-Track, allowing you to connect to available online learning opportunities.  Blended learning, which combines classroom learning with online message boards, chatrooms, wikis, etc., will be gradually introduced over the next two years.  Also coming up are online individual training needs assessments, and the ability to create individual training development plans that link to OCWTP learning interventions.


So what are you waiting for?  Start harnessing your OCWTP training experience today!


To get started, go to the County Workers & Supervisors E-Track Training Page and quickly learn how to log into and use E-Track to maximize your OCWTP training experience.  Don't wait - link now!







"Quit and Stayed" Quit and Stayed  

In a recent internet article from the Ken Blanchard Companies, the term "quit and stayed" was used to describe employees who are disengaged from their job, (E.g.,  those who merely show up to work for a pay check but do only the bare minimum.) Employees who have "quit and stayed" exist in many organizations, including those appointed to provide child protection. They are a challenge to supervise, and can prove to be a poison to other employees and to the organization's work.


To read more about working with those who have "quit and stayed", click here.


Great News!
The Forum is now being delivered to the email inbox of over 700 public child welfare supervisors in the State of Ohio.

Check out our web page!


The Supervisor Station is a new web page on the OCWTP website designed for Supervisors.  This webpage provides visitors with a variety of OCWTP supervisor resources all in one place.  You can access supervisor training schedules, back issues of the newsletter, and a variety of other resources with just one click (or two).  Visit www.ocwtp.com and click on Supervisor Station under the section for trainees or go there directly by entering http://www.ocwtp.net/Supervisors.html in your web browser.  We can't wait to hear what you think!