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May 2009Vol. 10, No. 4Site Visit: Learning Circles Engage Foster Care Supervisors

Young people who age out of foster care often require a number of specialized services in order to make a successful transition to adulthood. Child welfare supervisors and workers who are knowledgeable about the needs of these youth, familiar with the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program and other initiatives, and able to work well with youth are in the best position to help youth make a successful transition.

To build supervisor knowledge and competency in this area, the Hunter College School of Social Work and its partners used a Children's Bureau discretionary grant to develop and disseminate a training curriculum for public child welfare agency supervisors. The training, called Preparation for Adulthood – Supervising for Success, or PASS, consisted of learning circles of 10 to 16 supervisors who met for six full-day sessions over 6 months. In these sessions, participants discussed six core perspectives important to helping youth:

  • Developing and maintaining positive permanent connections between youth and caring adults
  • Actively engaging youth in developing life skills that will prepare them for successful transition
  • Relating to youth as resources rather than just recipients of services
  • Creating environments that promote physical and emotional safety and well-being
  • Valuing the individual strengths and uniqueness of each youth
  • Involving a diverse array of stakeholders in the development of a comprehensive continuum of services and supports for youth transitioning out of the foster care system

As part of the curriculum, trainees viewed digital stories created by foster youth, former foster youth, caseworkers, and supervisors. At the end of each session, supervisors created personal action plans for implementing what they learned and how they would transfer this knowledge to their caseworkers.

Evaluation results reveal that responses to the training were positive, highlighting both the usefulness of the curriculum content and the successful integration of the content into the supervisors’ practice. Pre- and posttest questionnaires suggest that trainees did increase their knowledge of youth issues through the training.

In January 2008, the project's website was launched, containing the learning circle competencies, agendas, discussion guides, training materials and tools, and 10 digital stories. This has sparked interest among several States in using the curriculum.

Hunter College had a number of partners in developing the curriculum and training, including Child Welfare League of America; the National Foster Care Coalition; the Oregon Department of Human Services, State Office for Services to Children and Families; the New York City Administration for Children’s Services; and the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children’s Services. The mix of city, State, and rural partners enabled project leaders to test the effectiveness of the training materials in diverse settings.

For more information, visit the project website at or contact the principal investigator:

Gerald Mallon, D.S.W.
The National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning
Hunter College School of Social Work
129 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10075

Preparation for Adulthood – Supervising for Success is funded under the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CW1131, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Training of Child Welfare Agency Supervisors in the Effective Delivery and Management of Federal Independent Living Service for Youth in Foster Care. 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.

The entire site visit report is posted on the Information Gateway website: