The staff development strategy had four goals:

  • • Train child welfare workers so they will become conscious of their practice from a racial equity perspective;
  • • Raise awareness of MSW/child protective workers on disproportionality and disparity;
  • • Educate MSW/child protective workers on issues of disproportionality and disparity; and
  • • Develop an online bibliography on racial disproportionality and disparity to address issues of sustainability.

The aim was to expose upcoming leaders to new ideas and understandings. The underlying belief was that making a new group of leaders aware of disproportionality and disparity would help to shape their practice today and in the future. The strategy was built on the assumption that these frontline practitioners would one day become leaders and would be able to influence their staff, colleagues, and many others in the child welfare system.

Students volunteered to work with the facilitators and chairpersons to share in the content and process of the workshops. This process gave them an opportunity to help identify the challenges they experience in engaging families. While the approach to staff development was based on the research around individual worker bias in child welfare, the proposed training framework incorporated an ecological structural perspective with the notion that each worker's decision-making processes are influenced by larger societal factors (Chisom & Washington, (1996). The strategy also incorporated a cultural humility perspective (Ortega & Fuller, 2011) in which the child welfare worker takes on the role of a learner about cultural experiences, which equalizes the power in the worker-client relationship.

The strategy consisted of four workshops over nine months, facilitated by consultants with expertise in racial equity and child welfare. Facilitators were selected based on their understanding of racism and its impact on oppressed communities as well as the effects of internalized racial oppression. The selected workshops included the following topics: (1) self-care and internalized oppression; (2) the cultural genogram; (3) skills and strategies for facilitating challenging discussions on race, power, and privilege in our work relationship; and (4) unpacking race at the family team conference meeting.

Following the workshop presentation, the MSW students/child protective workers were given an evaluation to complete. After each workshop, the facilitator engaged the participants in discussions because it was thought that some of the workshop contents might elicit emotional responses that the staff/students should process before returning to the workplace.

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