Social Work Policy Symposium on Child Welfare Supervision to Address Gaps, Opportunities

November 18, 2010
Gail Woods Waller

Social Work Policy Symposium on Child Welfare Supervision to Address Gaps, Opportunities

Third in series of think tank discussions seeks to improve outcomes for vulnerable children


WASHINGTON, DC—As child welfare tragedies continue to grab headlines around the country, finding new ways to educate policymakers about the critical need for professional supervision and other workplace investments is driving the work of top social work researchers.

These leaders and others will meet in Washington today for a think tank symposium called “Supervision: The Safety Net for Frontline Child Welfare Practice.” The meeting is sponsored by the Social Work Policy Institute of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Foundation, and is planned in conjunction with the NASW Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice and the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI), a service of the Children’s Bureau.  Casey Family Programs (CFP) is a contributing partner.

Growing evidence shows that supervision is an essential ingredient in affecting child welfare staff retention, organizational culture and climate, culturally competent practice, and child and family outcomes.  Research also indicates that supervisors can play a critical role supporting and guiding the frontline child welfare workforce—which includes many non-social workers.

The symposium’s discussions will explore the important role of supervisors in the delivery of quality child welfare services by bringing together representatives from child welfare research, policy, and practice; social work education; child welfare training; federal agencies; national organizations and foundations; and the U.S. Children’s Bureau training and technical assistance network.

The goal of the meeting is to develop an action agenda to address:

  • areas for further research
  • enhancement of interdisciplinary teams
  • training of child welfare workers
  • strengthening national collaborations and partnerships
  • implications and recommendations for policy

It also builds on several imperatives from the 2010 Social Work Congress:

“We hope that discussions between diverse stakeholders will help us better understand what competencies are essential in the child welfare workplace; what resources will assist agencies in hiring and retaining effective supervisors; how social work education aids good child welfare supervision, and much more,” says Joan Levy Zlotnik, PhD, ACSW, director of the Social Work Policy Institute.

Invited symposium presenters and discussants will examine:

  • Research on supervision in child welfare, including the relationship between supervision and staff retention, organizational climate and culture, culturally competent practice and child and family outcomes.
  • Social work workforce trends and implications for child welfare supervision including how diverse models to educate and train supervisors may affect workforce trends.
  • Research, practitioner, policy and academic connections that strengthen and promote the highest quality and most competent supervision in child welfare, including identification of diverse models to educate and train supervisors.
  • Resources related to supervision in child welfare (e.g., standards, continuing education, degree education, and training) and effective dissemination strategies.

“We’re clear that additional investments in the child welfare system can improve child outcomes, and one of those investments needs to be policies and incentives to enhance supervision of the front-line staff,” adds Tracy Whitaker, DSW, ACSW, director of the NASW Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice.

Today’s symposium speakers include:

  • Joan Levy Zlotnik, Social Work Policy Institute
  • Crystal Collins-Camargo, University of Louisville
  • Carol W. Spigner, University of Pennsylvania
  • Tracy Whitaker, NASW Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice
  • Mary McCarthy, National Child Welfare Workforce Institute—University at Albany, SUNY
  • Marva Hammons, Managing Director, Casey Family Programs
  • Agnes Leshner, Director, Child Welfare Services, Montgomery County, MD
  • Peter Vaughan, Dean, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University
  • Alissa Green, Social Worker, Department of Human Services, Arlington County, VA


The Social Work Policy Institute (SWPI) is a think tank established within the National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) in order to strengthen social work’s voice in public policy deliberations, inform policy­makers through the collection and dissemination of information on social work effectiveness and create a forum to examine current and future issues in health care and social service delivery.

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is a charitable organization created to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through the advancement of social work practice.

November 18th, 2010 at 10:29 am

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