Administration on Children, Youth and Families
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the federal government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. Within HHS, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is the agency responsible for federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. The Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) within ACF, administers national programs for children and youth; works with States, tribes, and local communities to develop services that support and strengthen family life; seeks joint ventures with the private sector to enhance the lives of children and their families; and provides information and other assistance to parents. Many of the programs administered by ACYF focus on children from low-income families; abused and neglected children; children and youth in need of foster care, independent living, adoption, or other child welfare services; preschool children; children with disabilities; runaway and homeless youth; and children from Native American and migrant families.
The Children’s Bureau
Within ACYF, the Children's Bureau (CB) plans, manages, coordinates, and supports child abuse and neglect prevention, and child welfare services programs. CB is the agency within the federal government that is responsible for assisting child welfare systems by promoting continuous improvement in the delivery of child welfare services. CB programs are designed to promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of all children, including those in foster care, available for adoption, recently adopted, abused, neglected, dependent, disabled, or homeless, and to prevent the neglect, abuse, and exploitation of children. (For more information about CB's programs, visit http: // www.acf.hhs.gov / programs / cb).
Ensuring the Well-Being of Vulnerable Children and Families
ACYF is committed to facilitating healing and recovery and promoting the social and emotional well-being of children who have experienced maltreatment, exposure to violence, and/or trauma. This FOA and other discretionary spending this fiscal year are designed to ensure that effective interventions are in place to build skills and capacities that contribute to the healthy, positive, and productive functioning of children and youth into adulthood.
Children who have experienced maltreatment, exposure to violence, and/or trauma are impacted along several domains, each of which must be addressed in order to foster social and emotional well-being and promote healthy, positive functioning:
- Understanding Experiences: A fundamental aspect of the human experience is the development of a world view through which one's experiences are understood. Whether that perspective is generally positive or negative impacts how experiences are interpreted and integrated. For example, one is more likely to approach a challenge as a surmountable, temporary obstacle if his or her frame includes a sense that "things will turn out alright." On the contrary, negative experiences can color how future experiences are understood. Ongoing experiences of abuse might lead children to believe they deserve to be maltreated and affect their ability to enter into and stay engaged in safe and healthy relationships. Interventions should seek to address how young people frame what has happened to them in the past and their beliefs about the future.
- Developmental Tasks: People grow physically and psychosocially along a fairly predictable course, encountering normal challenges and establishing competencies as they pass from one developmental stage to another. However, adverse events have a marked effect on the trajectory of normal social and emotional development, delaying the growth of certain capacities, and, in many cases, accelerating the maturation of others. Intervention strategies must be attuned to the developmental impact of negative experiences and address related strengths and deficits to ensure children and youth develop along a healthy trajectory.
- Coping Strategies: The methods that young people develop to manage challenges both large and small are learned in childhood, honed in adolescence, and practiced in adulthood. Those who have been presented with healthy stressors and opportunities to overcome them with appropriate encouragement and support are more likely to have an array of positive, productive coping strategies available to them as they go through life. For children who grow up in unsafe, unpredictable environments, the coping strategies that may have protected them in that context may not be appropriate for safer, more regulated situations. Interventions should help children and youth transform maladaptive coping methods into healthier, more productive strategies.
- Protective Factors: A wealth of research has demonstrated that the presence of certain contextual factors (e.g., supportive relatives, involvement in after-school activities) and characteristics (e.g., self-esteem, relationship skills) can moderate the impacts of past and future negative experiences. These protective factors are fundamental to resilience; building them is integral to successful intervention with children, youth, and families.
The skills and capacities in these areas support children and youth as challenges, risks, and opportunities arise. In particular, each domain impacts the capacity of young people to establish and maintain positive relationships with caring adults and supportive peers. The necessity of these relationships to social and emotional well-being and lifelong success in school, community, and at home cannot be overstated and should be integral to all interventions with vulnerable children and youth. Additionally, building these skills and capacities through the implementation of effective interventions will ready children, youth, and families for positive permanency outcomes.
An important component of promoting social and emotional well-being includes addressing the impact of trauma, which can have a profound effect on the overall functioning of children and youth. ACYF promotes a trauma-informed approach, which involves understanding and responding to the symptoms of chronic interpersonal trauma and traumatic stress across the domains outlined above, as well as the behavioral and mental health sequelae of trauma.
ACYF anticipates a continued focus on social and emotional well-being as a critical component of its overall mission to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children.
Working With Other CB Discretionary Grant Project
CB currently funds approximately 300 discretionary grant projects in over 50 program areas. Through their work with a broad spectrum of populations within the child welfare arena, discretionary grantees develop a wealth of knowledge across numerous program areas. The findings from these programs can be useful in informing the field. Projects are strongly encouraged to utilize the knowledge being developed by CB discretionary research and demonstration projects and other related Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) activities when developing proposals in response to this FOA. For more information on CB discretionary grant programs, please see https:// www.acf.hhs.gov/ programs/ cb/ grants/ discretionary-grant and http://basis.caliber.com/cbgrants/ws/library/docs/cb_grants/GrantHome.
The Role of Workforce Development Initiatives
The role of workforce development initiatives in the field of child welfare is critical. For children who have experienced trauma, healing and recovery take place in safe, nurturing contexts. The foundation to an approach that promotes well-being is a knowledgeable workforce assuring the use of an effective, trauma-informed response to the children and families they serve. In order to meet the goals of promoting social and emotional well-being, it is of great priority to increase the capacity of the workforce to meet the needs of children and families (ACYF, 2012).
“Practically from the beginning of being a federal agency, CB has believed that a highly competent workforce is the essential element of child welfare practice and the key to responding effectively to child and families in need” (Lynch Thomas, 2012). CB believes that building an effective and efficient workforce is as critical a goal for child welfare agencies as building an array of quality services and interventions. The implementation of evidence-based treatment services is dependent upon the effectiveness of the professionals at all levels of child welfare agencies providing support to vulnerable children, youth, and families. Children, youth and families who come into contact with the child welfare systems deserve evidence-informed assistance from a committed and skilled child welfare workforce, supported by well-functioning, well-managed and high performing child welfare agencies. A causal relationship exists between capable child welfare agency workforce and positive case outcomes (ACF, 2006).
The Children’s Bureau intends to pursue a multi-pronged approach to building the capacity of the child welfare workforce. First, those who provide front line services to children and families must be recruited, educated, trained, supported, and developed professionally in innovative ways. Building the child welfare workforce requires people with excellent skills doing high-quality work. Second, agencies must improve their organizational cultures if they intend to retain their workforce and achieve better outcomes for children and families. CB wishes to support healthy child welfare organizations that value their people, support best practices in case management, provide evidence-based treatment and hospitable environments for effective interventions, and effectively collaborate with partner agencies to ensure that children and families are safe, healing, and thriving. Third, academic partners need to include in their curriculum the content knowledge that will teach the wide array of skills needed to prepare high quality professionals in child welfare. In the academies that train and in agencies that serve, the desired result is to support the workforce to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families.
Achieving safety, permanency, and well-being for children requires that child welfare professionals be knowledgeable and skilled and have access to necessary resources. Unfortunately, public, private, and tribal agencies are often faced with challenges that can compromise the health, competence, and effectiveness of their respective workforces. In 2003, Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) findings reported that high turnover and staffing shortages increased the workload burden on remaining caseworkers. Consequently, this greater burden resulted in delayed maltreatment investigations, fewer worker visits with children and their families, limited opportunities for relationship-building, and hastened decision-making that affected systems’ abilities to ensure the safety and placement stability of children served. The reviews have also shown that while many states are able to meet basic criteria for providing initial training to workers and supervisors before they begin work for the agency, only about half of the States provide sufficient ongoing training to ensure workers’ skills and practice knowledge are able to meet the complex needs of their clients (DHHS, 2011). “There is a national picture unfolding that makes it clear that even basic casework practice, such as assessing children and parents, involving them in case planning, and having consistent caseworker contact, needs significant improvement to provide excellent care in order to achieve permanency and protect the safety and wellbeing of children and families involved in the child welfare systems” (Lynch Thomas, 2012).
CB is engaged in ongoing efforts to respond to findings from the CFSRs and other monitoring reviews. Through its child welfare training initiatives and other discretionary programs, CB promotes the development and dissemination of promising and proven approaches to workforce problems. CB expects that this will result in the delivery of more appropriate, responsive, and effective services to children and their families. Building the capacity of child welfare systems to effectively recruit, train, supervise, manage, support, and retain the workforce of child welfare professionals has become one of CB’s focused and key strategies for achieving systemic change in public child welfare.
Child Welfare Training Initiatives under Title IV-B of the Social Security Act
Legislative authority for the initiative described in this program announcement comes from Title IV-B, Subpart I–Child Welfare Services of the Social Security Act (the Act). Under Section 426 (a)(1)(C) of the Act, federal grants are available to public or non-profit institutions of higher learning for special training projects and traineeships in the field of child welfare.
In an effort to support the recruitment and retention of qualified staff in child welfare, CB has funded professional education traineeships for many years. In the late 1970s, CB defined the scope of the Section 426, title IV-B training grants, as inclusive of three complementary purposes: the development of child welfare trainers, educators, and curricula, the provision of financial support for short term training of public and private agency staff working in child welfare; and, the coverage of educational costs of students in their final years of college or graduate school (Lynch Thomas, 2012). Traineeships are awarded to institutions of higher education to administer stipends to individual students who commit to pursuing either a BSW or MSW degree in social work and to serving in a child welfare agency upon graduation. In recent years, approximately 40 States have partnered with approximately 80 schools of social work to support the education and training of child welfare staff (Lynch Thomas, 2012).
In 2003, CB also funded eight 5-year projects to demonstrate successful recruitment and retention strategies. This group of projects has demonstrated promising strategies for the selection, hiring, and retention of qualified child welfare staff. (Previous Recruitment and Retention grantees and links to their websites are listed in Appendix A. Additional information on Child Welfare Training projects is available at http:// www.acf.hhs.gov/ programs/ cb/ programs_fund/ discretionary/ cw_training.htm.) In 2005, ACF sponsored a Child Welfare Workforce Development and Workplace Enhancement Institute that brought federal experts, public and private agencies, universities, and other child-welfare serving agencies together to share best practices on recruiting and retaining a stable and highly skilled child welfare workforce.
In 2008, as a result of knowledge developed and lessons learned through the Retention and Recruitment grants, CB funded the first National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) to build the capacity of the nation’s child welfare workforce through activities that focused on supporting the development of skilled child welfare leaders in public and tribal child welfare systems and in private agencies contracted by the State to provide case management services traditionally provided by public child welfare. CB invested in NCWWI because of a belief that developing leaders at every level of the workforce, whether student, supervisor, middle manager, or agency director is an important effort if the child welfare workforce is to be transformed. NCWWI articulates their vision (NCCWI, 2012) for a child welfare workforce that is:
- Strengthened by professional education and leadership development;
- Supported by organizational practices that mirror systems of care principles;
- Led by middle managers and supervisors who engage in designing and delivering effective services; and
- Skilled at delivering promising practices that improve outcomes for children and families.
To promote effective child welfare practice and leadership development, the NCWWI undertook a number of activities, including but not limited to developing and delivering leadership training for mid-level managers and supervisors, administering child welfare professional education traineeship programs, advancing knowledge through collaboration and evaluation, and identifying and strategically disseminating effective and promising workforce practices.
The NCWWI initiated 12 traineeship projects in 2008. The NCWWI was responsible for administering and evaluating these professional education stipend programs throughout the 5 years of the project. The intent of the traineeships is to increase the knowledge and skills of individual stipend recipients, especially related to leadership development; address the workforce challenges of local child welfare systems; and build the capacity of college and university social work programs to prepare students for positive, culturally-competent, and productive careers in child welfare.
Additionally, in 2008, CB separately funded five Comprehensive Workforce Projects whose purpose was to build the capacity of the child welfare workforce through targeted workforce development interventions and traineeships that build on promising workforce practices. These cooperative agreements have provided universities and agencies the opportunity to partner and focus on assessments and interventions to improve agency culture and climate.
Child Welfare Training and Technical Assistance Network
CB provides training and technical assistance (T/TA) resources through its grants, contracts and cooperative agreements. CB-supported T/TA providers include the National Child Welfare Resource Centers (NRCs) that work together to assist States, tribes, localities, and courts to improve public child welfare systems. The purpose of these providers is to build the capacity of State and tribal child welfare agencies and family and juvenile courts through the provision of training, technical assistance, research, and consultation on the full array of federal requirements administered by CB.
CB employs several monitoring tools to ensure conformity with federal child welfare requirements to help States achieve greater safety, permanency and well-being for children. While a major function of the CB-supported T/TA is to prepare States for child welfare monitoring and to help them apply the knowledge gained from these reviews, the ultimate purpose of the T/TA is to improve child welfare systems and to support States in achieving sustainable, systemic change that yields better outcomes for children, youth, and families.
CB’s T/TA providers hold expertise in multiple aspects of child welfare practice. They are expected to provide resources and assistance that will support and facilitate positive change, and in some cases, comprehensive cross-system reforms that will build State or tribal capacity to deliver quality child welfare services and result in more effective and promising practice. CB and its providers utilize a variety of strategies to deliver T/TA to States and tribes.
In order to meet the requirements of this FOA, the Workforce Institute will perform activities that complement the services of other CB-supported T/TA providers. The Workforce Institute will partner closely with other CB-funded workforce development initiatives and with the Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG), a national clearinghouse that connects child welfare and other professionals to resources, information, and online tools that cover a wide range of topics related to child welfare, child abuse and neglect, and adoption (http: // www.childwelfare.gov). CWIG supports CB and provides numerous resources, including product development; dissemination/outreach via web, print, and electronic formats; websites and databases; and other online learning tools for improving child welfare practice.
Tips for Preparing a Competitive Application
It is essential that applicants read the entire announcement package carefully before preparing an application and include all of the required application forms and attachments. The application must reflect a thorough understanding of and support the purpose and objectives of the applicable legislation. Reviewers expect grantees to understand the goals of the legislation and CB's interest in each topic and to address and follow all of the evaluation criteria in ways that demonstrate this understanding. Applications that do not clearly address the evaluation criteria or program requirements generally receive very low scores and are rarely funded.
CB's website (http:// www.acf.hhs.gov/ programs/ cb) provides a wide range of information and links to other relevant websites. Before preparing an application, grantees can learn more about CB's mission and programs by exploring the website.
Target Participants and Consumers
Institutionalizing effective workforce practices and improving child welfare outcomes requires leadership. Leadership is needed to change vision, culture, beliefs, and to move the organization to better practices. Facilitating and sustaining positive systems change requires that an agency’s leadership possess content knowledge as well as a variety of core competencies and practice skills and a commitment to organizational effectiveness. CB recognizes that leadership does not reside exclusively in executive offices and that responsibility for change lies with professionals across the spectrum of child welfare roles. Well-trained leaders at all levels are needed for child welfare agencies to successfully meet the challenges of providing timely, appropriate services and to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children and families.
Members of the child welfare workforce, from agency directors, and directors of human resource departments, to middle managers, supervisors, and public child welfare professionals directly serving children and families, to prospective child welfare professionals who are pursuing social work degrees, child welfare faculty, and deans and directors of schools of social work are the target population and consumers of the training, organizational interventions, and knowledge developed by the Workforce Institute.
The Workforce Institute’s leadership activities will include training for middle managers and supervisors as well as leadership development opportunities for Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work and Child Welfare Agency Directors.
The Workforce Institute must partner closely with CB throughout the funding period to meet the goals of this program announcement. As a participant in a cooperative agreement, the grantee can expect to closely collaborate with CB in the review of its proposed activities. In some cases, they will revise and jointly develop key project strategies. CB must approve project plans and activities prior to implementation.
Responsibility for supporting workforce development in child welfare systems is not the sole role of any single project or entity. In addition to its partnership with CB, the grantee will be responsible for collaborating with other federal projects, including but not limited to, National Child Welfare Resource Centers, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, and other CB-funded and federal interagency projects aimed at increasing the capacity of the workforce to meet the needs of children and families.
Outreach and Engagement
In order to successfully reach its target audiences and achieve its goals for participation and use of Workforce Institute tools and resources, the grantee must have clear and deliberate strategies for outreach and engagement. The Workforce Institute must engage its intended consumers in the development and refinement of its training activities and products. The project will seek feedback from members of its target audience(s) throughout the project period to better understand workforce development needs, inform project activities, review curricula and product-related content, and proposed dissemination strategies.
Program Strategies and Activities
University Partnership Projects
Section 426(a)(1)(C) of the Social Security Act (the Act), as amended, authorizes funds for child welfare training, including stipends for professional education traineeships. The Workforce Institute will allocate funding for traineeship projects in partnership with other public and/or nonprofit institutions of higher education with accredited social work education programs. Historically, at least 30 percent of the annual award amount was designated for university partnership funding as it is a principal focus of the legislation authorizing these funds. These 5-year projects will support professional education for current or prospective child welfare practitioners who are currently enrolled or who plan to enroll in BSW or MSW social work programs. A minimum of ten traineeship projects shall be identified, selected and administered in partnership with eligible institutions of higher education. These projects will include direct stipends to students, administration of the stipends, participation in a cross-site evaluation, and provision of additional support services for students that will increase the likelihood of traineeship completion and retention of graduates in the field of child welfare. Each traineeship project must be at least $150,000 annually or $750,000 over the entire 5-year project period.
Section 426(c) of the Act requires assurances (and subsequent evidence of compliance after traineeship completion) that each individual stipend recipient will participate in regular training at a child welfare agency during the course of the traineeship and work at a child welfare agency for a number of years equivalent to the period of the traineeship after obtaining the degree for which the stipend was awarded. Additionally, Section 426 (c) of the Act also requires that the institutions involved in the traineeship projects will enter in to agreements with child welfare agencies for onsite training of stipend recipients, will permit an individual who is employed in the field of child welfare services to apply for traineeship if the traineeship furthers the progress of the individual toward the completion of degree requirements and finally, that the institution will develop and implement a system that for a three year period that begins on the date any recipient completes a child welfare services program of study, tracks the employment record of the recipient, for the purpose of determining the percentage of recipients who secure employment in the field of child welfare services and remain employed in the field. (Full text of Section 426 of the Social Security Act is available at http:// www.ssa.gov/ OP_Home/ ssact/ title04/ 0426.htm).
All traineeship projects must be implemented as early as possible during the first fiscal year of the cooperative agreement. The Workforce Institute must provide traineeship projects with sufficient time to select individual traineeship stipends prior to the start of the academic year in the fall of 2014.
CB intends for BSW and MSW professional education traineeships to increase the knowledge and skills of individual stipend recipients, to address the specific needs and workforce challenges of local child welfare systems, and to build the capacity of college and university social work programs to prepare students for careers in the child welfare workforce. The Workforce Institute’s stipend projects are expected to ensure the meaningful integration of each stipend project into a partnering child welfare agency’s broader, comprehensive plan for workforce capacity-building. A traineeship project in partnership with its county child welfare agency may be designed to offer BSW or MSW traineeships as a tool to recruit and prepare new child welfare professionals for work with children and families in underserved rural communities. By contrast, another project might offer MSW traineeship stipends to current American Indian child welfare supervisors to support the development and retention of qualified and underrepresented native professionals in its partnering State and tribal agencies. The Workforce Institute may choose to target particular degree candidates, types of professionals, or minority populations to address critical workforce needs when identifying and developing the ten stipend projects.
In addition to serving as a means to address specific agencies’ workforce challenges, projects are also intended to encourage partnering institutions of higher education to develop and improve their child welfare training curricula and programs. The Workforce Institute will partner with institutions of higher education that are prepared to provide competency-based child welfare training that places emphasis on developing critical knowledge, values, skills, and characteristics that are necessary to respond to complex problems confronting children and families in the child welfare system. The goal of these projects is to support Schools of Social Work to implement specialized curriculum to prepare the best and brightest students for the unique demands of serving in public child welfare.
Selected university projects will provide:
- A traineeship program that provides financial assistance to select trainees;
- An educational program that increases the knowledge and skills and leadership capacity of individual stipend recipients to address the social and emotional needs of children, youth, and families served by child welfare agencies;
- The development and improvement of child welfare curricula on the developmental and functional consequences of trauma and evidence-based practices to increase their skill level, professional practice and leadership ability, and to support retention in child welfare workforce; and
- An organizational intervention component linking the school of social work with the local public child welfare agency. This organizational intervention should be tailored to the specific needs of the local public child welfare agency and should have a strong evaluation component.
The Workforce Institute’s responsibility for national leadership training is intended to complement regional and local systems of child welfare training rather than replace or supersede training that occurs at the State, county, or tribal levels. The Workforce Institute’s training and dissemination activities (see Section IV.2, Dissemination) will target a national child welfare audience and primarily address: leadership development, capacity to implement change, best and promising workforce practices in child welfare, and CB’s national priorities for ensuring social and emotional well-being.
Expanding on the work of NCWWI, a 5-year initiative awarded to the Research Foundation of SUNY at the University of Albany in September 2008, the Workforce Institute will continue to cultivate leadership at multiple levels within child welfare agencies and expand the skills and knowledge of child welfare professionals that serve in public child welfare systems. The Workforce Institute is expected to deliver the previously evaluated leadership training curricula: the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers 5-day training and the 40-hour online Leadership Academy for Supervisors training. The grantee is encouraged to demonstrate creativity in proposing how this tested curriculum might be delivered in certain jurisdictions statewide or in conjunction with traineeship programs. The grantee might propose how the leadership academies could be used to create distance learning opportunities for selected participants or to form national “virtual” classrooms on leadership. Grantees have considerable flexibility in their proposals to further specify particular groups to whom its training and services will be aimed, to define the scope of curricula and activities that will be provided, and to propose the number of professionals that will be served.
Leadership Academy for Middle Managers
The Workforce Institute will use the Leadership Academy of Middle Managers (LAMM) curriculum that was developed and evaluated by NCWWI under the 2003-2008 cooperative agreement between CB and the Research Foundation of SUNY at the University of Albany. LAMM will be delivered to mid-level managers in public, private (if under contract with the State or county child welfare agency), and/or tribal child welfare agencies. For the purposes of this program component, middle managers include: State or tribal, central office, regional, and district child welfare administrators, assistant directors and staff; managers employed at the State/central office or regional office that provide support to local child welfare offices; State and tribal child welfare program managers; and program directors at private agencies under contract with the State or county to provide child welfare services.
For the purposes of this announcement, CB will no longer require that LAMM be delivered in cities that are also sites of CB Regional Offices. CB is interested in innovative strategies to deliver the leadership curriculum effectively and efficiently to as many child welfare middle managers as possible and even more specifically is interested in evaluating if the training is more effective if provided to multiple middle managers in the same jurisdiction.
Leadership Academy for Supervisors
The Workforce Institute will use the Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS) online curriculum that was developed and evaluated by NCWWI under the 2003-2008 cooperative agreement between CB and the Research Foundation of SUNY at the University of Albany. This national leadership training will be offered via online training media as it was designed. Supervisors of caseworkers in public, private (if under contract with the State or county child welfare agency), and/or tribal child welfare agencies will be the target audience for these training opportunities. The Workforce Institute should focus attention on describing how they will recruit States and jurisdictions to offer the training to all supervisors in a county, region, or State in order to create saturation. The Workforce Institute will describe the ways they intend to work with States to implement the curriculum statewide and to address their understanding of the steps that they will need to work through with a State in order for this to be possible (for example, memorandums of understanding with States, provision of technical assistance to support statewide implementation, and number of jurisdictions proposed throughout the funding period).
Leadership Academy for Deans and Directors
NCWWI will develop and deliver a new leadership offering for deans and directors of Schools of Social Work. Schools of Social Work often serve as exemplars for universities across the country seeking to promote community engagement. Community engagement requires institutional leadership that builds partnerships across the range of agencies, political and economic systems, and citizens living and working in a wide variety of locales. Building on a long history and university context for the 21st century, deans and directors of Schools of Social Work can be transformational leaders. They have the capacity to bring about systems change in their own units as well as collaborating on change projects with leaders of child welfare agencies.
The field of child welfare has historically been most closely aligned with the social work profession. Federally-funded training and education partnerships between child welfare agencies and social work programs have developed in more than 35 states and are important pathways to employment in child welfare. This is an opportune time for this Academy, as the current federal focus on the social and emotional well-being of children and families requires a renewed focus on the preparation of the workforce for delivering promising practices and evidence-based interventions, and it requires the determination of agencies to hire and support a professionally trained and high performing workforce. Developing a leadership academy for social work deans and directors focused on child welfare partnerships will support this important and evolving work.
Leadership Academy for Child Welfare Agency Directors
The Workforce Institute will develop and deliver a new leadership offering for Child Welfare Agency Directors. Successful child welfare systemic change requires leadership from Agency Directors who operate in a political environment and who have to manage operations within limited budgets. There are few forums for Child Welfare Agency Directors to share experiences and to problem-solve with others in similar environments. The purpose of this Leadership Academy is to assist Child Welfare Agency Directors to be transformational leaders. They have the capacity to bring about systems change in their own agencies, and collaborate on change projects with leaders in related fields.
The Workforce Institute will develop and implement a Child Welfare Leadership Academy for child welfare agency directors in order to increase the ability of agencies, schools, and other partners to strengthen the workforce and provide leadership for systemic change to improve outcomes for children and families. Developing a leadership academy for child welfare agency directors focused on child welfare partnerships will support this important and evolving work.
Between 2008 and 2013, CB funded five individual cooperative agreements to implement Comprehensive Workforce Projects. Each Workforce project, in partnership with one or more public, private (if under contract with the State or county government), or tribal child welfare agencies, conducted a thorough assessment of the child welfare agency’s organizational health and then implemented an organizational intervention designed to address the needs. Great advances were made in developing a comprehensive organizational health assessment in a number of the projects and innovative projects were selected in a few of the grants. However, having the projects housed separately may have created a barrier for greater learning about organizational effectiveness at a national level, which is the rationale for requiring that the workforce projects be closely linked with the learning and interventions taking place through the Workforce Institute. For the purpose of this funding opportunity, the Workforce Institute will choose three to five jurisdictions to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the recruitment, training, and retention system of the child welfare agency and then will implement an organizational intervention designed to improve clearly stated outcomes. Plans for these workforce projects will be proactive, strategic, collaborative, and sustainable.
The grantee may propose workforce projects that aim to assist a jurisdiction to assess their workforce capacity in a number of domains. Based on the identification of workforce needs in its preliminary assessment, the grantee will propose a preliminary plan that identifies specific activities that will be undertaken to address its critical workforce challenges. The Workforce Institute will have the freedom to consider and propose a wide range of activities for inclusion in their workforce projects. The Workforce Institute and its partner(s) may propose to develop a new approach to a unique problem, identify existing best or promising practices they intend to use, and/or present a model for selecting workforce interventions and implementing systemic change. Workforce projects will be developed and revised in consultation with CB after award of the cooperative agreement and plans will not be implemented until they are approved by the assigned federal project officer.
In summary, the Workforce Institute organizational intervention projects piece of this initiative are expected to confront issues related to staff recruitment, training, supervision, management, and retention that include, but are not limited to, topics such as effective hiring practices and decision making, adequate and competent supervision, supportive mentoring, caseworker workload, cultural competence, worker safety, and supportive, professional organizational culture. All of the workforce strategies that the grantee and its partner(s) choose to pursue must be consistent with both the guiding principles of this FOA and with the applicable agency’s mission. An important objective of this partnership will be to assist the agency in sustaining its systemic change initiative and to integrate its staff recruitment and retention approaches into the agency’s strategic plan.
Technical Assistance to States and Tribes
The Workforce Institute may also determine that in order to achieve the goals of this FOA, it is necessary to provide time-limited, tailored technical assistance to specific jurisdictions. The Workforce Institute will implement an application process for jurisdictions and tribes to apply to the Workforce Institute for direct assistance around a specific workforce development agenda. Tailored technical assistance may include site visits to assist the jurisdiction with assessment, work planning, coaching, and consultation. Tailored technical assistance may be necessary for a State or jurisdiction that seeks to implement LAMM or LAS statewide. Proposed technical assistance must be considered in consultation with CB, coordinated with other T/TA service providers, and approved by the federal project officer for the project prior to delivery.
Building Evidence of Best Practices in Workforce Development
National Advisory Board
In collaboration with CB, the Workforce Institute will establish a National Child Welfare Workforce Advisory Board (Advisory Board) that will review the Workforce Institute’s approaches to university partnerships, leadership development, organizational interventions, and building evidence of best practices. The Advisory Board will offer recommendations to the Workforce Institute regarding strategies to address national workforce issues. The Advisory Board is expected to provide the Workforce Institute with expert consultation that will help to build the capacity of the national child welfare workforce and improve outcomes for children.
Workforce Development Framework
Due to a myriad of factors, it seems that often public child welfare agencies lack a cohesive and comprehensive plan for assessing their greatest workforce needs and then developing strategies to address these findings. There is a need for a workforce development framework that could guide the decisions of leaders in public child welfare agencies. This framework will provide a roadmap for workforce development strategies and will assist States and jurisdictions in compiling the information they need to respond appropriately to the new Child and Family Services Plan requirements requesting greater detail regarding the composition, training, and qualifications of the child welfare workforce.
It appears that the biggest challenges to building leadership capacity across the current NCWWI components have centered on the work environment when participants in LAMM, LAS, and traineeships try to implement new practices. After individuals are recruited, selected and trained in meaningful ways, they need to be placed in work environments that are conducive to professional growth and providing high-quality services to children and families. In the cross-site evaluation of MSW and BSW traineeships conducted by NCWWI, students in their final year of education indicated their commitment to stay in child welfare agencies for 5 to 10 years. However, when these same students were interviewed just one year later during their first year of employment, they indicated that they intended to stay for only the 1 or 2 years required to complete their stipend requirement. It appears that many child welfare professionals feel the organizational environment is prohibitive to professional growth and advancement. Worker turnover is an important child welfare workforce issue to explore and address because when workers leave their jobs, there are important implications in cost -- both for the agencies where they work and for the families and children they serve.
Having a positive organizational culture and climate has been identified as being critical to retaining a skilled and educated workforce in child welfare. The next CB-funded Workforce Institute will respond to those challenges by developing a Workforce Development Framework (similar to the Leadership Competency Framework developed by the 2008-2013 National Child Welfare Workforce Institute). This conceptual framework will be used to guide the organizational intervention projects and technical assistance approach.
One key component of the framework should be to identify core competencies, skills, and characteristics in child welfare staff. The Workforce Institute will identify critical competencies and skills and characteristics necessary for the child welfare workforce at different levels within the child welfare workforce. Additionally, the Workforce Institute will assess existing child welfare workforce training curricula and identify gaps where critical competencies and CB content priorities are not sufficiently addressed.
Knowledge Development and Knowledge Management
The National Child Welfare Workforce will take on new work that builds knowledge about the child welfare workforce and examines the relationship of workforce development to the well-being of children, youth, and families.
Grantees are encouraged to select two areas of intervention research to focus attention over the project period. This may include, but is not limited to, studying what the role of leadership is in improving workforce retention and service outcomes. For example, is there a link between leadership skills and implementing change initiatives and the impact on workforce retentions, quality of supervision, and better outcomes for children, youth, and families? Or, what workforce interventions stem turnover? Grantees could propose a study of the relationship between certain child outcomes and the characteristics and practices of the workforce.
The Workforce Institute is expected to collect and manage existing information about best and promising practices in leadership and workforce development from current and previous CB demonstration, capacity building, and quality improvement grants.
CB expects for the Workforce Institute to carefully consider opportunities to use new technologies when making decisions about project activities, curricula, learning communities, product design, and dissemination strategies. In addition to making training modules and other products electronically accessible, the grantee will be encouraged to take full advantage of innovations (e.g, websites, social networking, workspace sharing, livecasting, presentation sharing, mobile applications, etc.) that use web- and mobile-based technologies when these approaches are feasible, practical, and appropriate, and when they are likely to increase access for target audiences and achieve project objectives.
Specific Tasks to Be Performed by the Workforce Institute During the Planning, Implementation and Sustainability Phases
Thoughtful planning is a necessary prerequisite to successful implementation of the Workforce Institute’s activities. While ongoing revision of implementation strategies may be appropriate later in the project period, CB requires that initial planning phases for the Workforce Institute’s major activity areas will be completed within 6 to 12 months. The implementation phases for the Workforce Institute’s major activities will be 48 to 54 months in duration. During the final 6 months of the project, the Workforce Institute will compile evaluation data, present findings, and prepare final reports to CB.
The Workforce Institute will present preliminary plans for both planning, implementation and sustainability activities. Proposals will include plans for each of the Workforce Institute’s major activity areas. Immediately after the award, and prior to implementation, the grantee's planning work plan will be subject to review, revision, and final approval by CB.
Each grantee is required to submit a design that clearly and concisely describes a strategy for planning and implementing the Workforce Institute’s major activities. These major components are: University Partnership To Support Workforce Development; Leadership Training Across the Child Welfare Career Spectrum (Deans and Directors, State Agency Directors, Middle Managers, and Supervisors); Organizational Intervention To Improve Workforce Retention (Workforce Development Projects and Tailored Technical Assistance); and Building Evidence of Best Practice in Workforce Development (Advisory Board, Workforce Development Framework, Building and Managing Knowledge on Best Practices in Workforce Development, and Dissemination).
Due to the nature of its tasks, the Workforce Institute will not be required to organize all of its activities into a single planning phase and subsequent implementation phase. Grantees must propose appropriate timelines for planning and implementation specific to each of the major activity areas. For example, some of the Workforce Institute’s planning phases for cross-site evaluation are contingent upon the preparedness of university partners to participate in the process of evaluation design. Each grantee is encouraged to be familiar with the approximate dates shown below when developing its schedule of proposed activities. These do not cover all of the key tasks but give guidance on approximate dates for specific activities.
- Project Period Begins: Approximate date -- October 1, 2013
- Planning Phases Begin For Organization Intervention Projects: Approximate date -- October 1, 2013
- LAMM and LAS Trainings Begin (grantees have flexibility in proposing structure and timeline for the other training offerings): Approximate date -- January 2014
- University Partnership Projects and Organizational Intervention Projects Selected: Approximate date -- March 2014
- Traineeship Stipends Awarded to Students: Approximate date -- October 2014
- Organizational Intervention Project Implemented: Approximate date -- March 2014
Grantees are also expected to describe the processes that will be used during their planning activities to revise their implementation plans and address anticipated implementation, logistical, and administrative issues. A revised implementation plan for each of the Workforce Institute’s major activity areas will be due to CB within 10 months after the award of the cooperative agreement.
The Workforce Institute will be afforded considerable flexibility in developing its strategies to enhance building capacity within the public child welfare workforce. However, CB expects the Workforce Institute to complete the tasks described in this announcement within the general timeframes indicated below, unless otherwise negotiated and approved. Grantees are encouraged to reference this framework when developing a more detailed proposal design that includes action items specific to the particular processes and activities they propose.
Grantees that propose alternative planning and implementation timelines must provide sufficient rationale to support the feasibility of these plans. All grantees must explain how their approaches will ensure that all of the program requirements are completed in the project period.
Additional Project Requirements
See Section IV.2, Additional Assurances and Certification.
Administration for Children and Families. (2006). Summary of the Results of the 2001–2004 Child and Family Services Reviews. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Administration for Children, Youth and Families (2012). Integrating Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being for Children and Families in Child Welfare: A Summary of Administration on Children, Youth, and Families Projects in Fiscal Year 2012.
Lynch Thomas, Miranda (2012). One Hundred Years of Children’s Bureau Support to the Child Welfare Workforce. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 6:4, 357-375.
Mitchell, L., Walters, R., Lynch Thomas, M., Denniston, J., McIntosh, H., Brodowski, M. (2012). The Children’s Bureau’s Vision for the Future of Child Welfare. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 6(4), 550-567.
National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. (2012). NCWWI child welfare traineeships: Promising approaches & strategies. Albany, NY: Author.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau (2011). Federal Child and Family Services Reviews Aggregate Report, Round 2, Fiscal Years 2007-2010. Retrieved from http:// www.acf.hhs.gov/ programs/ cb/ cwmonitoring/ results/fcfsr_report.pdf.