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November 3, 2000

Child Welfare Training Program Continues Strides

By Nancy Guse
UW-RF News Bureau

A partnership training program affecting child case workers in 25 western Wisconsin counties five Native American tribes continues to make strides.

The Western Wisconsin Partnership for Children & Families trained a total of 375 child welfare case workers and supervisors through 35 workshops during its second year of existence. Using federal Title IV-E money with local matches, it sponsored workshops addressing family focus, case assessment and planning, effects of abuse and neglect, ethics and boundaries, child sexual abuse, separation and placement and reunification with the family.

Pat McConville, assessment worker in Pierce County, has noticed that she and her co-workers work together more effectively now. "Since attending these workshops together, we have a more uniform approach to our work," she said. "We use the same terms and similar methods of solving problems."

McConville said she learned new methods that help her find a balance between keeping the child safe and keeping the family together.

Administered by UW-River Falls, the program is a partnership among 25 Wisconsin county human services and social service agencies, five Western Wisconsin Native American Tribes, UW-RF, and the Wisconsin Division of Children and Family Services.

The five tribal nations consist of Red Cliff, Bad River, St. Croix, Lac Courte Oreilles and the Ho-Chunk.

The participating counties include: Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Iron, La Crosse, Monroe, Pepin, Polk, Pierce, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon and Washburn.

The purpose is to contribute to the quality of services being provided to children and families served by child welfare staff. In doing this child welfare personnel go through a comprehensive competency-based training program.

The curriculum includes courses for new workers as well as experienced workers and supervisors. It is well established and used throughout the United States. The focus is in the field of child welfare and is based on social work values and principles. The training consists of interactive workshops and will continue each year the partnership is funded.

UW-RF Professor Jennifer Borup, the partnership project director and the directorof UW-RF's social work program, said, " We work together on this training system that involves pre-and post-workshops activities so that participants can use what they learn in workshops when they go back to their agencies."

This year the program trained 288 social workers, 40 supervisors, 18 directors or deputy directors, and 29 professionals in other areas, such as foster care coordinators and case aides, in its second year.

Through a statewide partnership, standards can provide support through consistent and quality training. One goal is to discuss the delicate balance between providing a safe environment for the child and maintaining family connections. It will also focus on legal issues and how to best deal with children in neglected or abusive homes.

"This program is a philosophical base for training to follow," said Mary Thompson, supervisor of the child, youth, and family unit at Pierce County. "Everything leads from one training workshop to another."

The program began in 1999 with the establishment of the Northeastern Wisconsin Partnership for Children and Families, centered out of the social work program at UW-Green Bay. Two years ago when the program was expanded, the social work program at UW-RF was chosen as the site for the Western Wisconsin Partnership. UW-Madison will be the site of a Southern Partnership.

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