Training Matters

 

Vol. 5, No. 1• October 2003

Update on Child Welfare Training in North Carolina

In the past ten years the NC Division of Social Services and its partners have transformed child welfare training in North Carolina. In 1993 the training offered by the state was modest—a dozen or so courses at a few locations. Today child welfare workers and supervisors have access to a training system that features 50 training courses, five regional training centers, a web-based information management system where people can learn about and register for courses, educational conferences, and much more. All of this is offered with no registration fees to child welfare staff from county departments of social services.

The chart below offers an illustration of the accomplishments of North Carolina’s child welfare training system since 1998.

Child Welfare Training in NC, 1998 – 2002

1998
1999
2000
2001
2002

Courses offered

24
34
43
47
50

Training events offered

170
222
285
285
252*

Days of training delivered

717
1,078
1,162
1,281
1,127*

Pre-Service events

20
43
49
44
41*

Registrants from County DSS’s

5,959
6,390
6,419
5,262
4,657*

Registrants from other agencies

342
651
1,112
983
950

*Reduction due to inclement weather and budget cuts

All of these efforts are made to fulfill a vision shared by the Division and its partners: A North Carolina child welfare training system that guarantees competency-based, job-relevant, accessible, affordable, consistent, timely, and thorough training for children’s services workers.

To learn more

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Tips for Child and Family Team Meetings

Child and family team meetings are gatherings of family, extended family, friends, community members, and agency service providers to discuss difficult issues related to child abuse, neglect, and dependency. They are also one of the central family-centered strategies of North Carolina’s Multiple Response System (MRS).

Although their purpose—planning and decision making—is familiar to child welfare professionals, child and family team meetings are also a radical departure from previous practices, in that they actively involve the family in the creation of a plan to ensure children’s safety and well-being. Because they are so different, some child welfare workers are uncertain how to conduct these meetings effectively.

To help, we present the following tips, which were developed by social workers based on the things they learned when they held family meetings.

Prepare ahead of time. Find out who will be there. Make notes to yourself about what you will say (i.e., concerns, strengths, synopsis, issues that must be addressed).

Greet everyone. Speak to everyone who comes in. Since family members may be uncomfortable with you, reach out to them in particular.

Seat yourself strategically. Sit next to a child or someone with whom you are trying to build a relationship. Do not sit next to the person facilitating of the meeting.

Identify your concerns and family strengths. Be sure to have these balance each other out. Talk about concerns as a human being, not as an expert social worker (although you surely are one!). Avoid jargon. Keep it brief. Be sure to bring up concerns the family has not already identified.

Provide a relevant case synopsis. Prepare ahead of time for sensitive issues or confidentiality. Act as though this is a group of your friends or family members. Be respectful.

Present the framework for decision making. When the facilitator asks you, be prepared to list the essential issues that must be addressed in the plan. Do not prescribe the plan.

Stay for entire meeting. No phone calls, etc. Stay nearby during breaks and private family time so that you can answer questions or provide feedback if the family needs you.

Don’t gossip about the family. Avoid the “Us versus Them” dynamic. If you must, talk about others during breaks and before and after the meeting. Avoid assessment activities.

Give immediate feedback to plans and decisions. Ask the family to clarify things. Provide as much feedback as possible. Approve of as many things as possible. If you cannot approve of an item in the family’s plan, explain why. If you need to check with someone else for approval (e.g., supervisor, judge) tell the family when you will do so and when you will get back to them.

Do not prescribe the plan! Remember that this is the family’s meeting. It is not the time to be directive. Think about “offering options” rather than telling people what to do.

Be prepared for criticism. There are two “hot seats” at family-centered meetings. Yours is one of them. Since you represent the agency and the family’s entire history with it, you are likely to be blamed or criticized.

Don’t be defensive. Not everyone will like you or your ideas. Listen well. Acknowledge feelings or ideas that are different than you own.

Be ready to feel captive to big feelings of sadness, grief, and anger. Family-centered meetings can be very emotional. You will witness the expression of feelings you don’t always see. You may feel like a captive audience to the family’s loss and pain. Plan to have someone to talk to afterwards. Be sure to schedule a time to debrief with the facilitator one-on-one.

To learn more about family meetings, consult:

Source: Adapted from the NC Family-Centered Meetings Project, North Carolina State University

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2003 Jordan Institute for Families