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May 2008Vol. 9, No. 4RURAL Child Welfare Training in California

With a focus on improving the practice of child welfare workers in rural California, the California Institute on Human Services (CIHS) of Sonoma State University has developed the RURAL (Resources to Address the Unique Needs of Rural Communities for Availability/Accessibility of Local Services) training project. This project aims to provide a competency-based training curriculum to increase the capacity of the child welfare workforce in providing effective services to children and families in rural communities.

To determine training needs prior to curriculum development, a survey was administered to thousands of rural social workers across the State. Survey results indicated that substance abuse was a priority training area. Responding to this need, CIHS developed two training modules. The introductory module, "Working With Drug Abusing Families," includes the following topics:

  • Introduction to rural social work
  • Impacts of drug abuse on families
  • Intervention and treatment
  • Accessing community resources

After participating in the introductory training module, participants return to their agencies to begin implementing their new knowledge. The follow-up training session, "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy With Substance-Abusing Families," is focused on providing technical assistance. This training module includes the following subjects:

  • Introduction to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study
  • Additional information on addiction, intervention, and treatment
  • Assessment tools
  • Training in cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Additional treatment tools and resources

The evaluation of the RURAL training project utilizes a pre- and posttest methodology to measure knowledge gain, a satisfaction survey, and a 3-month posttraining follow-up. Initial analysis of knowledge gain for 463 participants in the first training and 199 in the second training found an average improvement of 30 percent. Participants also indicated high satisfaction with the training sessions. Final evaluations will be conducted at the project's end.

Note: The RURAL training project was transitioned from Sonoma State University to San Jose State University Research Foundation, effective October 1, 2007.

For more information, contact the project director:
Diane Nissen, Ph.D.
RURAL Training Project
San Jose State University
Research Foundation
210 N. Fourth Street, 4th Floor
San Jose, CA 95112

The RURAL Project is funded under the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT00109, 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.