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Vol. 9, No. 1, October 2003

Moving to Family-Centered
Supervisory Practices

Conventional Supervision
Family-Centered Supervision
Produce competent frontline staff who focus on assisting families to comply with agency-directed plans to keep children safe. Facilitate development of competent frontline staff who will make good decisions and empower families to make good decisions to keep children safe.

Identify competence and build skills through observation, interactive supervision, and continuous strengths-based feedback to improve outcomes for families.

Create a climate of mutual respect, empathy, genuineness, and trust between workers and families.
The focus is on caseloads and responding to tasks within time frames. The focus is on families and finding realistic solutions that result in good outcomes. Supervisors emphasize the importance of partnering with families and affirm progress and successes.
Supervision occurs only in the office. Supervisors make home visits with staff to model, observe, and provide the support and feedback that develops skills.
Supervisors are the source of knowledge. Interaction with workers is situational and primarily focused on problem cases or crisis intervention. Supervisors guide workers on cases, encouraging them to look to each family’s experience as a source of knowledge. Regular, scheduled case consultation is used to foster skill development. Supervisors also look for peer learning opportunities.
Interaction with unit members is hierarchical. Interaction is team-focused and collaborative, providing opportunities for workers to take lead roles in peer learning, develop unique expertise, and become “model” practitioners.
Evaluation is formal, occurs once a year, and is supervisor- directed. The comments and plans look similar from worker to worker. Evaluation is ongoing, constant, and mutual. The supervisor is a discoverer of individual competencies and strengths in workers. The worker and supervisor jointly plan how to build worker strengths.
Practice development opportunities for supervisors are passed up because “there is no time.” Staying abreast with best practices is a priority so supervisors can more successfully mentor staff.
Supervision suggests that workers are solely responsibile for child safety, which places them in the position of making key decisions with little to no input from other professionals or from the families themselves. Supervision helps workers engage families as well as formal and informal community partners because “keeping children safe is everybody’s business.”

Adapted from Community Partnerships for Protecting Children. (2003). The transformation of supervisory practices to support community partnerships. Safekeeping, 7(1), 3. <>


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