Selection criteria should be derived from the attributes, knowledge, skills, abilities and
education necessary for an effective workforce to meet the needs of the clients they serve and used
to hire the right people for the work. Selection criteria must be closely linked to the
implementation of the agency’s practice model, including the commitments to address problems of
disparate treatment related to disproportionality and the need to maximize effective and efficient
use of technology. It is essential that the selection criteria delineates in writing what the
public child welfare agency expects its workers to do.
Example: The clinical and generic case management work that a front-line program worker performs must be carefully distinguished from the traditional clinical work that many prospective workers may expect. For public child welfare , the social work principle of meeting clients where they are and moving them forward includes meeting, engaging and supporting clients in their homes, communities, and neighborhoods, not necessarily in the worker’s office .
The following sections address the core attributes needed for the entire child welfare workforce
and the educational levels, knowledge, skills, and abilities that are relevant to the performance
of direct service and other program jobs. This in no way mitigates the importance of non-program
child welfare staff. Rather, it emphasizes the specialized skills and support systems needed by
Attributes that identify the best candidates for all child welfare agency staff
The field of public child welfare is complex, and there are a number of personal attributes that
are predictive of those who will excel. An assessment of these attributes should be embedded in a
standard behavioral interview for all child welfare staff.
Recommendations for education and training for public child welfare program staff
Public child welfare service delivery involves a broad array of professionals offering services
from a variety of disciplines (e.g., social work, psychology, law, medicine, nursing, education).
Agencies must clearly articulate to professional schools what basic knowledge, abilities, skills,
behaviors and personal attributes are expected of the public child welfare workforce to enable
schools to develop curriculum, create relevant internships and provide students with appropriate
career guidance. The curriculum needs to include course work specific to public child welfare.
Social work is the primary profession that focuses on preparing graduates to provide public child
welfare services. Social work education coursework and field experiences include education in child
and adult development, social welfare policy, organizational behavior, research and direct practice
needed to fulfill the roles required by public child welfare agencies. Public child welfare-
specific courses and field placements enhance commitment to public child welfare careers and a
readiness to work in public child welfare organizations.
Completion of a bachelor’s degree in social work or allied professional equivalent degrees that
include specialized public child welfare education and public child welfare field experiences is
the minimum educational requirement that signifies a basic readiness for service as a public child
welfare worker. Though usually equipped for an entry level program position in child welfare
services, these professionals must undergo additional education and training in programs with an
emphasis on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental, behavioral and emotional disorders in
individuals, families, and groups to provide higher-level
services. These competencies can typically be attained through graduate-level education and field
internships and fulfillment of the postgraduate supervised practice hours required by a state licensing board or state agency where they will practice.
A master’s degree in social work (MSW) or allied profession prepares graduates to provide services
for more complex client needs, manage programs and provide supervision. Program supervisors and
managers should possess an MSW or equivalent degree with coursework that provides knowledge and
skills in supervision of staff or program development and management required by the job
description. If these positions have a clinical component, staff should also have the prerequisite
credentials for providing clinical supervision as defined by the individual states. Front-line
workers who move into supervisory and management functions must also receive additional training in
these functions before taking on such duties.
Program staff at all levels without the prerequisite field internships and education must receive
additional training and demonstrate the ability to apply the techniques prior to assuming
responsibilities. Practice proficiency must align with client needs.
Frontline program staff knowledge, skills, and abilities
Front-line program staff are required to have a unique combination of knowledge, skills and
abilities to perform the job effectively. These may vary based on how job functions are designed
within an agency. For example, a good front-line program professional:
Frontline program supervision knowledge, skills, and abilities
Front-line supervisors must be experts on what workers do. They need to support, protect and mentor
staff while holding them accountable. Typically, front-line supervisors must:
Program managers knowledge, skills, and abilities
Management often represents a career shift for front-line workers and direct practice supervisors.
This shift is attained through recognition that management exists to support and serve the direct practitioner and their
supervisors. Additional training is required. The following are some indicators of an effective manager: