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April 2008Vol. 9, No. 3Training for Missouri's Rural Child Welfare Workers

Southwest Missouri State University, in collaboration with the Missouri Division of Family Services (DFS) and Community Partnerships of the Ozarks (CPO), has developed 18 competency-based training modules to prepare child welfare workers and supervisors to serve the unique needs of children and families living in rural areas. Thirty-one counties in the Southwest Region of the DFS are recognized as rural counties and serve as the focus of this project.

Early in the project, staff recognized the need for a standard set of training competencies. After a thorough literature review and a number of working meetings with key stakeholders, 140 competencies were identified. These competencies were then used to develop the 18 training modules and monitor training effectiveness.

Training modules cover a diverse range of topics, including poverty, domestic violence, conflict resolution, parent education, mental illness, and substance abuse. All of the modules were created in collaboration with the Children's Division of DFS so that trainings could fill in gaps that the State did not have the capacity to cover in its standard training system. Trainings also were opened up to foster parents in need of continuing education hours. Rural foster parents often find it difficult to find and receive good training, and providing these trainings met a real need in the community.

In addition to developing and providing training, project staff are working to improve community collaboration and awareness. They have learned that each community is different and that the key to community participation is identifying and involving the right community leaders. Staff also have conducted focus groups to identify barriers to services and needs in rural counties. In addition, multiple collaborative meetings have been convened to develop additional resources and create collaborative activities. These partnerships have helped to increase awareness and access to child welfare services in rural communities in Southwest Missouri.

While long-term effects of the training modules still are being measured, preliminary evaluation results indicate that all of the trainings have been high quality and positively received by participants. In addition, each time a training is conducted, there is a process for revising the module based on feedback. This method of continuous improvement is encouraging to participants and helps enhance each subsequent training session.

For more information, contact the project director:
Kelli Farmer, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.
149 Park Central Square
Springfield, MO 65806

The Missouri Training Program for Rural Child Welfare Workers project is funded under the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0127, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Training for Effective Child Welfare Practice in Rural Communities. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.