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2008 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 13, No. 2
March 2008

How Agencies Can Strengthen Supervision

In the fall 2007 issue of its newsletter Child Welfare Matters, the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement discussed initiatives and interviewed child welfare supervisors in four states—Arizona, Missouri, New York and Oklahoma. Out of these discussions emerged the following steps the Resource Center believes child welfare agencies must take to support supervisors.

Value, respect, and recognize the contributions of supervisors. Agency leadership needs to see the importance of supervisors and give them the supports they need to do their job.

Define job responsibilities and expectations. Supervisors need to have a clear definition of what their jobs entail, especially as expectations change. This includes job descriptions and related performance expectations and performance appraisal processes.

Provide training for supervisors. Supervisors need training, both when they’re new and on an ongoing basis. As supervisors become more involved in reforming child welfare practice, many agencies are adding clinical training to their supervisory training curriculum.

Provide ongoing professional development. Supervisors value processes that allow them to continually develop skills and competence, such as assessment processes and personal development plans, career ladders and educational opportunities.

Provide supervision and mentors for supervisors. Supervisors need opportunities for case consultation and feedback, especially from people with experience in child welfare. This can be provided by the next level up in management—the supervisor of the supervisors—and/or by consultants or mentors who meet regularly with supervisors to assist them in their work.

Create opportunities for peer networking. Supervisors particularly value opportunities to interact with and learn from other supervisors. Many agencies organize regular meetings or learning labs that allow supervisors to meet together, sometimes assisted by a facilitator, to support one another.

Provide tools to help supervisors talk with workers about agency goals and current performance. Tools that help supervisors educate workers about where the agency wants to go and how their current practice affects performance include data reports and clinically focused case review processes.

Involve supervisors in organizational improvement processes and community collaborations. It is important that supervisors are listened to and given an active role in strengthening the agency and its services. Agencies involve supervisors by including them in quality improvement processes, work groups, and surveys. Supervisors also have a role in collaborating with key partners in the community.

Involve supervisors in training workers. Supervisors need to be engaged in the training of new staff, and should be integrally involved in the ongoing caseworker training. Agencies should partner with supervisors to develop and deliver worker training.

Train supervisors in policy and practice changes before they are made and provide tools for supervisors to promote these changes with their workers. Agencies need to recognize that supervisors are critical partners in implementing practice change and select supervisors who can be effective in this role. At a minimum, agencies should inform and train supervisors about policy and practice changes before they are made. To help supervisors coach workers, agencies can integrate the changes into tools used in day-to-day practice such as case planning documents and assessment tools.

Reprinted with permission from the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (2007, Fall)