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Positive outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system are due in no small measure to the commitment and competence of dedicated child welfare professionals. This system is only as strong as the people that provide services to children and families. Building a committed, confident, and competent child welfare workforce is essential to Wisconsin families and it begins with supportive, effective child welfare professional training, WiLearn.

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) partners with the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System (WCWPDS), headquartered at UW-Madison, to provide oversight and development of all required child welfare trainings for Wisconsin's counties, the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services (DMCPS) and its contract agencies. WCWPDS training offerings include pre-service, new staff training, supervisor and ongoing training. At its UW-Milwaukee-based branch, WCWPDS leads training for DMCPS and its contract agencies, the development of statewide foundation training for foster and adoptive parents, group home staff and home visitors. From this ongoing collaboration, a new training model has been designed.

Training Model Purpose and Goals

Achieving safety, permanence and well-being for children and families requires a skilled workforce. Workforce skill comes from various inputs--effective, relevant training chief among them. The new child welfare training model provides a structure for consistent training of new child welfare professionals that reflects the refinements to curriculum and instructional methods made over many years of WCWPDS and DCF/county collaboration, is responsive to evolving needs of professionals, children and families and incorporates state-of-the-art approaches to adult learning.

The overall goal of the new child welfare professional training program is to:

Provide new professionals with the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to successfully assume a full caseload at a basic level of proficiency.

Professionals will continue to increase their skill over time as they accumulate more experience and expand their knowledge. As they begin serving Wisconsin Children and Families, they need to demonstrate the basic skills required to serve Wisconsin families competently and experience the confidence to continue on-the-job.

Accomplishing this overall goal is facilitated by designing a program that:

  1. Provides an integrated and practical training experience by mixing on-the-job application with formal instruction.
  2. Maximizes retention by equipping child welfare professionals with essential job skills and confidence.
  3. Occurs at a pace that allows for on-the-job application and feedback before assuming full case assignment while recognizing agencies’ staffing needs.
  4. Is sustainable because it generates revenue ( IV-E draw ) by creating an intensive training period where child welfare professionals’ primary case assignments are reduced and focus is on training.
  5. Focuses on essential skills defined by the Wisconsin Child Welfare Model for Practice.
  • Keeping children safe in their homes, tribes and communities whenever possible.
  • Minimizing out-of-home care and transitioning children safely and quickly to their family whenever possible or to another permanent home when necessary.
  • Engaging with children, youth and families in family-centered ways that foster decision-making about their own needs and solutions.
  • Collaborating with extended family, community partners, service providers, courts, tribes, and other family supports.
  • Understanding the impact of trauma and supporting families socially, emotionally, and physically to encourage healing.
  • Building relationships between child welfare professionals and supervisors to create a supportive working environment that encourages learning and growth.

Local Agency Work

The New Child Welfare Professional Training model emphasizes the supervisor's role in supporting new child welfare professionals’ professional development. The model includes activities that enhance learning, structure on-the-job application, and build the professional/supervisor relationship. These activities include:

  1. Structured on-the-job application of skills learned in formal training
  2. Job shadowing
  3. Additional supervisory oversight
  4. Learning assessment
  5. Agency- or county-specific training

Delivery

Over the next year, the New Child Welfare Professional Training team will be communicating about the training process and schedule to ensure that all counties are well-informed and ready to go when the new model is introduced in January 2023. Information on this page will evolve as new information becomes available, be sure to check back frequently.