Supervision: The Safety Net for Front-Line Child Welfare Practice

Supervision: The Safety Net for Front-Line Child Welfare Practice Report

Supervision: The Safety Net for Front-Line Child Welfare Practice Report

The quality of the direct services provided to children and families, the positive outcomes of service delivery, the successful recruitment and retention of workers, and the ability of child welfare organizations to function in times of change and stress depend on the recognition, development and affirmation of supervisors as crucial organizational and community leaders (National Child Welfare Workforce Institute [NCWWI] Leadership Academy for Supervisors [LAS], 2010).

To further our understanding of the complex and crucial role of supervisors in child welfare, the Social Work Policy Institute (SWPI) of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) convened an invitational symposium, Supervision: The Safety Net for Front-Line Child Welfare Practice, on November 18, 2010. It was planned in conjunction with the NASW Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice and the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI), with Casey Family Programs (CFP) as a contributing partner.

The symposium highlighted the growing evidence that effective supervision is a critical ingredient in addressing child welfare staff retention, organizational culture and climate, culturally competent practice, transmission of evidence-based practices, and child and family outcomes.  It also highlighted the broad array of challenges that today’s child welfare supervisors face in performing their roles. The full report from the symposium, Supervision: The Safety Net for Front-Line Child Welfare Practice including an overview of research on child welfare supervision, and recommendations for action, as well as an Action Brief can be downloaded.

The Social Work Policy Institute is making the two hours of presenters and respondents available so that the social work and child welfare communities can benefit from the important information that was delivered at the symposium.  Social workers will be able to earn continuing education credits (CEUs) from NASW by viewing the video below and purchasing the Supervision: The Safety Net for Front-Line Child Welfare Practice post-test on NASW’s Continuing Education and Training Center.

Part 1

Part 2

The 4 presentations (with accompanying PowerPoint presentations) are:

Highlighting the Evidence-Base for Enhancing Supervision in Child Welfare Practice
Crystal Collins-Camargo,  PhD, MSW, Kent School of Social Work, University of Louisville

Supervising for Racial Equity
Carol W. Spigner, DSW, Associate Professor Emerita and Clinician Educator, School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania

Social Workers in Child Welfare:  Implications for Supervision
Tracy Whitaker, DSW, ACSW, Director, NASW Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice

Supervisors as Leaders: Strategies to Support Knowledge Development and Competence
Mary McCarthy, MSW, PhD, National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, School of Social Welfare. University at Albany, SUNY)

Click on the links above to download the presentations and view the speaker biographies.

The Discussants used their practice, policy, academic, administrative, consultation and front-line experiences to comment on the presentations and bring their perspectives about supervision to the symposium.  The Discussants are

Speaker Biographies

Crystal Collins-Camargo, MSW, PhD

Assistant Professor, University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work

Crystal Collins-Camargo teaches in the masters program at the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work, specializing in child welfare, supervision and social policy.  Dr. Collins-Camargo directed the Southern Regional Quality Improvement Center for Child Protection, which worked in a ten state region to promote knowledge development through research and demonstration projects focusing on the impact of clinical supervision on agency and client outcomes in child welfare as well as forge public agency/university partnerships. She conducts applied research in child welfare and juvenile court systems using collaborative, participatory approaches to engage practitioners in social work and other fields in developing knowledge to promote practice improvement. She was formerly program director for Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, and worked in the public child protection system as a worker, supervisor and statewide specialist.  Dr. Collins-Camargo holds a BSW degree from Cornell University and MSW and PhD degrees from the University of Kentucky.

Marva Hammons, MSW

Managing Director of Strategic Consulting, Casey Family Programs

Marva Hammons joined Casey Family Programs in 2007 as its first Managing Director of Strategic Consulting. She is one of the leads for the organization’s consulting work designed to support and partner with state and local child welfare jurisdictions to improve outcomes for child victims of abuse or neglect.  Casey Family Programs strategic consulting service proactively seeks ways to assess and support systems improvement in organizations and agencies providing child welfare services throughout the United States.

Before joining Casey Family Programs, Hammons was executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, executive director of the Family Independence Agency for the State of Michigan, Commissioner for New York City’s Human Resources Administration   Manager of the Denver, Colorado Department of Human Services. Hammons also served in the administration of Denver Colorado Mayor Federico Pena and on the policy staff of Colorado Governor Richard Lamm.  Hammons has served as president of the Board of Directors for the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.  She is a graduate of the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government’s program for senior government executives and has taught at the University of Denver, Graduate School of Social Work and Denver’s Metropolitan State College.

Agnes Leshner, MS

Director, Child Welfare Services, Montgomery County, Maryland

Agnes Leshner has been director of Montgomery County Maryland’s Child Welfare Services for 20 years.  Her staff of over 160 social workers provides an array of services to children and families, including investigations of reported child abuse and neglect, family preservation, kinship care, foster care, adoption, and foster home finding.

Previously, Ms. Leshner served as the Director of Research, Development and Training for the Montgomery County Department of Social Services. Before coming to the County, Ms. Leshner was the director of a partial hospitalization program for severely mentally ill adults at Geisinger Mental Health Center, and a consultant trainer of family therapists. Ms. Leshner holds a Masters degree in Psychology from Bucknell University and trained in family therapy through the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic. Throughout her tenure in Montgomery County, Ms. Leshner has focused on developing partnerships with other agencies and service providers. She has been recognized formally through awards from agencies concerned with housing, mental health services, and child protection, and from a variety of community commissions and task forces.

Mary L. McCarthy, PhD, LMSW

Co-Principal Investigator, National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, University at Albany

Mary McCarthy is the Co-Principal Investigator for National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI), a service of the Children’s Bureau’s TTA Network and is the Director of the Social Work Education Consortium in New York State.  The Consortium is New York’s Child Welfare University-Community partnership program. NCWWI is designed to build the capacity of the nation’s child welfare workforce and improve outcomes for children and families through activities that support the development of skilled child welfare leaders. A faculty member at the University at Albany, School of Social Welfare since 1988 she worked in the child welfare field for 11 years both before and after receiving her MSW from the University at Albany in 1982. She completed her PhD in 2003 at Memorial University in Newfoundland Canada. Her dissertation topic focused on supervision in public child welfare systems. Mary currently serves on the NASW Board of Directors as the Region III representative.

Roxana Torrico Meruvia, MSW

Senior Practice Associate, National Association of Social Workers

Roxana Torrico Meruvia is a Senior Practice Associate with the National Association of Social Workers. Ms. Torrico Meruvia conducts research and develops written products on issues related to children, youth and families. Prior to joining NASW, Ms. Torrico Meruvia worked at The Finance Project where she co-authored several publications including Financing Housing Supports for Youth Transitioning Out of Care. Ms. Torrico Meruvia has also worked as the Director of the Housing and Homelessness department at the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). There she provided direction and technical assistance specific to the development and knowledge regarding the intersection of foster care and homelessness. Through the coordination of regional, state and local efforts, Ms. Torrico Meruvia facilitated the integration and collaborations of child welfare and housing/homeless systems. In addition, Ms. Torrico Meruvia worked closely with CWLA’s National Foster Youth Advisory Council.  She also has several years experience working with diverse, low-income youth and families in the non-profit and public systems. Ms. Torrico Meruvia holds a Master of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor’s Degree from Marymount University.

Carol Wilson Spigner, DSW


Emerita Associate Professor/ Clinician Educator, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice

Carol W. Spigner retired from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice in June of 2010 after having served as associate professor/ clinician educator for a decade.  At Penn, Spigner directed the social policy program and taught policy and macro practice.  Prior to her arrival at Penn, Dr. Spigner had been the Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and was responsible for the administration of federal child welfare programs. Most recently Spigner has served on: the Pew Commission for Children in Foster Care; the Mayor’s Child Welfare Review Panel for the City of Philadelphia; and the Workgroup for the Michigan Racial Equity Task Force. She also chairs the Board of the Center for the Study of Social Policy

Dr. Spigner has served as a senior associate at the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Washington, DC and as the director of the National Child Welfare Leadership Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Spigner has published a variety of articles in the areas of cultural competency, permanency planning and relative care. Dr. Spigner has received numerous awards including: the Black Administrators in Child Welfare’s 2008 George Silcott Award for Lifetime Achievement; University of Southern California’s award for “Lifetime Contributor to the Development of Policies and Programs for Underserved Populations;” the National Association of Black Social Workers’, “Outstanding Contributors Award,” and the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators’, “Award for Leadership in Public Child Welfare.”  A native of Los Angeles Dr. Spigner began her career working for the Los Angeles County Departments of Adoption and Probation and received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Riverside and her graduate degrees from the University of Southern California.


Peter B. Vaughan, PhD, MSW

Dean, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service

Peter B. Vaughan is dean at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. Until October 2000, he was the associate dean for academic programs and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work. Prior to joining that faculty in 1981, he was an associate professor of social work at Wayne State University and Chief of the Life Stress Center at University Health Center/Detroit Receiving Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. His teaching has been primarily in the areas of social work practice, interdisciplinary collaboration in health care settings, and human behavior. Recent research is concerned with enhancing health, social health, and life chances of African American boys. He has been a member of a number of boards of community organizations and agencies, and he also served in several capacities with local chapters of NASW, the Council on Social Work Education and as a member on several national advisory boards. He is a Social Work Pioneer. He received a BA in Sociology from Temple University, an MSW in Group Work from Wayne State University, an MA in Psychology and a PhD in Social Work and Psychology from the University of Michigan.

Tracy Whitaker, DSW, ACSW

Director, NASW Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice

Tracy Whitaker is the Director of the NASW Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice.   Dr. Whitaker directed the 2004 national benchmark study of licensed social workers and was the lead author of five reports emanating from that study.  She also led the first compensation and benefits study of the social work profession in 2009 and has conducted multiple studies of the NASW membership.  In 2003, Dr. Whitaker conducted a study of NASW members in child welfare practice, resulting in the publication, If You’re Right for the Job, It’s the Best Job in the World. Recent publications include:  Child Welfare Social Workers’  Attitudes Towards Mobile Technology Tools:  Is There a Generation Gap?; The Results are In: What Social Workers Say About Social Work; and Workforce Trends Affecting the Social Work Profession 2009. Dr. Whitaker’s Bachelor’s Degree, MSW and DSW are all from Howard University in Washington, DC.

Joan Levy Zlotnik, PhD, ACSW

Director, Social Work Policy Institute

Joan Levy Zlotnik became Director of the Social Work Policy Institute in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Foundation in October 2009 having previously served as the Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research (IASWR). She is a nationally recognized expert on child welfare staffing issues, and served as the principal investigator of the Annie E. Casey Foundation supported examination of research and outcome studies of retention in child welfare workers and was an expert resource to the GAO on their 2003 report on recruitment and retention of child welfare workers. She has examined the history of federal support for child welfare training and served as a consultant to the U.S. Children’s Bureau and several of its contractors.  She is the co-editor of several special journals on child welfare workforce issues including the 2009 Special Issue of Child Welfare. Dr. Zlotnik has been active in promoting partnerships between universities and the practice community. From 1995 to 2000 she served as Director of Special Projects and Special Assistant to the Executive Director at the Council on Social Work Education and was previously at the National Association of Social Workers as Staff Director for the Commission on Families and Government Relations Associate.  Dr. Zlotnik has a BA from the University of Rochester, an MSSW from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Social Work from the University of Maryland.