Vermont Family Services Division New Employee Training Program
Foundations for Child Welfare and Youth Justice Casework Practice

Summary

The University-State Partnership in Vermont is excited to provide an enhanced training program for new Social Workers employed by the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Family Services Division. The vision for the program took shape over the course of several years when the Division experienced the deaths of two children in their care and the murder of Family Services’ Social Worker, Lara Sobel. Over the past three years, the Federal Child and Family Services Review (CFSR), the Vermont Citizen’s Advisory Board (VCAB) and the Casey Report all independently identified a variety of gaps and challenges in the current training program for Social Workers. Highlights of these reports include:

  • DCF should define caseworker professional competencies and standards, and should ensure that caseworkers are properly trained and hold these competencies prior to being assigned cases.
  • Training is not available in a timely manner for new caseworkers before they assume a full caseload;
  • There are no time frames for initial training requirements;
  • There is not a robust assessment of whether the training addresses the basic skills and knowledge required for staff in their positions.
  • Train staff to include complete and accurate information on assessments.
  • Provide social workers with training and coaching in use of safety plans for cases in which significant safety threats or risks of future harm are identified and children remain in the home or are reunified following out-of-home placement, especially in families with issues of parental substance abuse, mental illness or domestic violence.
  • Focus training and coaching on strengthening general assessment skills as well as on specific tools used by FSD.
  • Participation in training is not effectively tracked.

In addition, it is well documented that the quality and timeliness of Social Worker training directly impacts staff perception of personal safety, the quality of assessments of abuse/neglect, staff well-being and resilience and the ability to support and retain a healthy and productive workforce.

View program details Below or download the PDF document here

Key components of the program include:

  • Clearly articulated training requirements accomplished prior to being assigned a caseload;
  • Competency-based curriculum allows for effective design, delivery and evaluation of training content as well as assurance that the curriculum teaches what needs to be taught;
  • New evaluation framework that uses Pre- and Post- test measurements to evaluate training design and knowledge acquisition;
  • A hybrid curriculum that combines the benefits of online, classroom and field-based learning opportunities;
  • Enhanced record-keeping and tracking of training participation, completion and learning plan development.

The most significant shift in the training program will be the expectation that all new Social Work staff successfully complete all training requirements prior to be assigned a caseload.

These requirements are broken down into three distinct and complementary categories. All elements of each category must be completed prior to becoming eligible for case assignment.

  1. Foundations Classroom
  2. Foundations Online
  3. Foundations Field – Based Practice

This 4 week course will be offered 3 times a year. Training sessions will run from 9:00 – 4:00 daily and will capitalize on interactive, cohort-focused learning. Ideally, staff will begin the classroom session at the onset of week one, however, it is also possible to join mid-stream and complete the classroom requirement in the subsequent session. The curriculum for the classroom portion of Foundations is structured similar to the evolution of the case process, beginning at the front-end of a case and moving through to case closure.

Currently, this program consists of the following 11 online courses that are available through the Vermont Child Welfare Training Partnership ELearning Portal. Follow the links for Foundations Online Learning Program and specific course requirements.
http://training.vermontcwtp.org/course/index.php?categoryid=2

  • Child and Adolescent Development
  • Case Documentation
  • Self-Care and Secondary Traumatic Stress
  • Adoption Competency Training
  • Introduction to YASI
  • Intercultural Responsiveness
  • Substance Abuse for the Child Welfare Professional
  • Permanency in Child Welfare & Youth Justice
  • Domestic Violence Training
  • Motivational Interviewing- Introduction to Theory and Practice
  • Structured Decision Making System for Child Protection (SDM)

The purpose of the field-based practice category is to provide opportunities for new social workers to transfer their learning from the classroom and computer to the field and test their understanding of the connection between knowledge and practice. Through methods such as job shadowing, observation, peer mentoring, coaching, document review and documentation practice Social Workers gain insight into the role and responsibilities of a child welfare and/or youth justice social worker. In order to maximize resources and not place unnecessary burden on veteran social work staff consider the following:

  • New Social Workers should shadow those Social Workers/Supervisors who have 2 or more years of experience in the field;
  • Shadowing may take place in both home and neighboring districts to allow for access to a broad range of perspectives and experiences;
  • Develop a mentor cohort in your district and in neighboring districts who can be tapped periodically to work with new social work staff;
  • When you are providing mentoring and shadowing for a new social worker:
  • Seek clarity from your Supervisor about the purpose of the job shadow and the parameters for the new Social Worker’s activities;
  • Provide honest, clear and objective feedback to the new Social Worker about their work;
  • Offer as much contextual information as possible for your activity;
  • Invite questions;
  • Provide your ideas and understandings of the activity and refer to Supervisor for additional guidance.

Prior to caseload assignment eligibility, new Social Workers can be considered to be in a category between Social Worker and Case Aide. During this period, new social work staff should not independently participate in activities that are the responsibility of the Social Worker.

Activities that new social workers may assist with include all Case Aide activities that include but are not limited to the following: (Refer to Case Aide Job Description for a more complete list of activities).

  • Forms and paperwork completion
  • Placing calls for appointments, referrals, reaching out to collateral contacts
  • Entering Case Notes
  • Database Mining
  • Providing transportation

Activities that new social workers may not be responsible for include but are not limited to the following:

  • Interviewing family members
  • Representing the department in Court process
  • Representing the Department at Family meetings
  • Independently assessing safety and risk
  • Working with Police to remove a child
  • Placement changes

certificates once you have completed each of the modules.  Your course instructor will receive a notice of your completion. Foundations classroom certificates of completion will be generated from the sign-in sheet at class.

  • During this pre-caseload training period, it is the expectation that attending and participating in training is that Social Worker’s “caseload”. Given this, a significant portion of the initial evaluation – the 6 month probationary period – will be based on participation in training and efforts to transfer learning into the field.
  • CWTP staff will provide structured feedback to the training participant and the Supervisor following completion of Foundations – Classroom training and Foundations – Online training.  (Feedback process and form under development).

In an effort to create a responsive and high quality training program the Vermont CWTP will actively seek and is open to feedback on all aspects of program implementation. We would be especially interested in your input on the requirements including the practicality and balance of expectations, the clarity of requirements and the availability of support with which to implement the program expectations, the quality of the training design, the delivery of content and provision of relevant and enriching learning opportunities. We will provide structured opportunities for this feedback and will welcome input ongoing.