Equipping the child welfare workforce to improve the well-being of children

Publication Date18 September 2017
Date18 September 2017
AuthorRichard P. Barth,Bethany R. Lee,Mary Theresa Hodorowicz
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Children's services,Sociology,Sociology of the family,Children/youth,Parents,Education,Early childhood education,Home culture,Social/physical development
Equipping the child welfare workforce to
improve the well-being of children
Richard P. Barth, Bethany R. Lee and Mary Theresa Hodorowicz
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to discuss ways of equipping the child welfare (CW) workforce to
improve the well-being of children through graduate education and post-MSW training.
Design/methodology/approach This paper analyses the barriers to providing mental health (MH)
services to vulnerable children and families and discusses three evidence-based ways of overcoming them.
Findings Child and family social workers need to do more than case management if they are to influence
the well-being of the children and families they seek to help. A variety of methods is necessary to implement
this changed role and three initiatives Partnering for Success, Motivational Interviewing for Child Welfare
Trainees and Training Adoption-Competent Welfare Professionals show promising results.
CW workers can learn to implement evidence-informed MH practices with high fidelity.
Research limitations/implications None of the studies are controlled studies.
Practical implications The paper offers innovative ideas about workforce implications and
implementation strategies.
Social implications Abused and neglected childrens well-being is deserving of more effective methods.
Originality/value The paper provides details of three innovative evidence-based projects national
models in the USA concerned with promoting childrens well-being.
Keywords USA, Child, MSW, Child welfare, Child welfare workforce, Mental health treatment
Paper type Case study
Protecting and enhancing the welfare of children is not just a challenge (Pecora et al., 2009)
but also an instit utional and ethic al mandate of child -serving system s in the USA, the UK
and many other countries. Achieving this standard requires optimising resources, including
human ones. Currently, policy makers and programme designers do not expect child welfare
(CW) workers to be very effective in delivering services and instead focus, perhaps overly so,
on compliance and documentation (Munro, 2012). As a result, the CW workforce ends
up serving primarily as decision makers or care coordinators instead of providing clinically
valuable interve ntions.
Several forces work against the ability of CW workers to deliver services. The demands of their
primary protection role can be time-consuming and limit opportunities to meaningfully engage
with families. In the UK, pressures to adhere to organisational priorities and timelines were found
to compete with workers ability to do realsocial work(Munro, 2012, p. 27). In the USA,
childrens services are generally stratified into separate delivery systems mental health (MH)
and CW although we endeavour to integrate them into one larger system of care(Blau et al.,
2010; Stroul and Friedman, 1986). Child welfare services (CWS) have long been acknowledged
to have primary responsibility for child safety and achieving legal permanency for children with
their families of origin, or otherwise. The funding mechanisms for them focus on achieving these
goals and, in great part, separate services have to be obtained from the childrens MH sector to
obtain therapyfor children. Thus, in the USA there is no designated funding for CW workers to
complete clinical work. Structural reforms to increase the well-being of children involved with CW
must address these obstacles.
Received 9 May 2017
Revised 10 July 2017
Accepted 11 July 2017
The authors would like to
thank Nancy Dickinson,
Debra Linsenmeyer and
Leslie Rozeff for their assistance
improving this manuscript.
Richard P. Barth is a Professor
and the Dean at the University
of Maryland School of Social
Work, Baltimore, Maryland,
Bethany R. Lee and
Mary Theresa Hodorowicz are
both based at the School of
Social Work, University of
Maryland, Baltimore,
Maryland, USA.
DOI 10.1108/JCS-05-2017-0017 VOL. 12 NO. 2/3 2017, pp. 211-220, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-6660
PAG E 21 1

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