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Dec/Jan 2008Vol. 8, No. 11Enhancing Casework Supervision: The Southern Regional QIC for Child Protection

Fourth in a series of articles on the Children's Bureau's Quality Improvement Centers

Enhanced casework supervision has the potential to improve outcomes for children as well as effect positive changes in worker practice, workforce turnover, and organizational culture. The Southern Regional Quality Improvement Center (SRQIC) for Child Protection focused its 5-year program of research and demonstration projects on identifying innovations in supervisor practice that would produce these positive outcomes.

With funding from the Children's Bureau beginning in 2001, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work created and operated the SRQIC. A regional needs assessment conducted during the first year identified caseworker supervision as a pivotal issue in child protection services. The SRQIC then made grants to four State demonstration projects that incorporated innovative practices into caseworker supervision and collected data on their results. Their findings support the use of a more clinical approach to caseworker supervision and point to the importance of providing professional development for workers and reinforcing the training in the field.

The diversity of the demonstration projects produced a range of qualitative and quantitative results. Specifically:

  • Arkansas: The project focused on field-based mentoring of supervisors, structured case review, and online tutorials. Despite a hiring freeze during this time, supervisors who participated reported positive changes in their practice and in that of their caseworkers.
  • Mississippi: Researchers used a cultural consensus approach to establish a learning-based organizational culture that promoted best practices, teamwork, and the development of clinical supervision skills. This project led to improved perceptions of worker self-efficacy and organizational culture and lessened turnover among workers.
  • Missouri: In a role demonstration project, workers observed supervisor models in actual and simulated treatment interventions. The training led to both better case outcomes and to improved practice and morale among workers.
  • Tennessee: This project involved classroom training focused on clinical decision-making for supervisors from across the State and was coupled with a popular mentoring component.

The SRQIC provided training and technical assistance and aided in conducting the project evaluations. While the projects used a variety of approaches to enhance caseworker supervision, the overall results support the potential of quality supervision focused on education and support for workers to help both workers and the children and families they serve.

Crystal Collins-Camargo, Director of the SR QIC, had this to say about the initiative, "Many child welfare agencies have discovered that competing priorities have led their frontline supervisors to overemphasize administrative responsibilities and spend less time on educational, supportive, and clinical supervision. This initiative has demonstrated that by supervisors focusing on use of educational, supportive, and clinical techniques, positive organizational, practice, and client outcomes can be achieved. Enhancing supervision may well be the key to effectively responding to the challenges faced by public child welfare agencies today."

To learn more about the SRQIC, visit the website:

For more information, contact:
Crystal Collins-Camargo, Project Director

Related Items

To read the earlier articles in the QIC series, go to:

  • "Addressing Substance Abuse and Child Maltreatment: The RMQIC" (September 2007)
  • "Promoting Cultural Competence and Collaboration: The Frontline Connections QIC" (October 2007)
  • "A Success Model of Adoption: The QIC on Adoption" (November 2007)