Staff Development and Performance Management

Selection Criteria

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 

program staff.


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.

Attributes include:

  • Commitment to the fundamental values of child welfare and to the children, youth and families served. 
  • Ability to communicate effectively based on requirements of the job.
  • Awareness of and ability to handle stress and manage conflict using self care strategies and without personalizing issues. 
  • Self-efficacy that is team-focused and service-oriented.
  • Motivation, drive and a willingness to work hard. Ability to apply critical thinking in day-to-day situations. 
  • Personal integrity.
  • Ethics.
  • Self direction with the ability to anticipate and take necessary actions in areas of assigned responsibility. 
  • Demonstrated cultural competency in day-to-day work.

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:

  • Knows and applies relevant federal and state statutes, rules, policies and procedures related to child abuse investigation, case planning and family services.
  • Understands basic social data and its implications for promoting positive outcomes for children, youth and families and for estimating service needs and requests.
  • Takes responsibility to keep up-to-date on best practices and learns to apply these effectively.
  • Knows human development and family systems theory; concepts of youth and family involvement and empowerment; family-centered assessment and case planning and is able to apply this knowledge to provide appropriate interventions to meet the needs of children, youth and families across a wide range of complex issues.
  • Knows and understands the dynamics of child abuse and neglect, is able to identify it, assess its effects and apply appropriate interventions to protect children from maltreatment and promote their safety in stable, permanent families by making reasonable efforts to prevent placement, reunify children and families, or pursue permanent alternative placement through adoption or legal custody.
  • Can identify dysfunction in a family caused by mental and behavioral health challenges and substance abuse; understands the implications of these issues and knows and can apply appropriate interventions.
  • Gathers information from a broad range of sources and weighs it to make evidence-informed decisions. 
  • Has the capacity to understand how one's own behavior affects others.
  • Communicates clearly, verbally and in writing, so that information is correct and adequately documented.
  • Can build relationships in the community, knows the community service array and can readily facilitate relevant service connections.
  • Possesses professional licensing or credentials for the service being provided or child welfare practice as defined by the identified jurisdiction, if applicable.

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:

  • Possess the core knowledge, skills and abilities of front­line program staff and keep up­to­date on the professional, technical or procedural aspects of the job to provide day­to­day guidance and support. They must know and be able to teach best practice and evidence­informed interventions and provide resources for staff training.
  • Manage staff performance in a manner that supports staff and promotes high performance by providing oversight in a manner that builds confidence and maintains self-esteem; promotes worker self-efficacy and a belief that it is possible to effectively intervene in complex cases. They must reward good performance, support career goals, and deal with underperformance. They must encourage and accept input from supervisees and higher-level managers to improve services being offered, accommodate different personal styles and levels of expertise in making assignments, and facilitate cultural competence.
  • Conduct agency administrative tasks that require skills in using non personnel resources efficiently and effectively for case management and worker safety, and for employing vertical and horizontal communication channels effectively, both internally and externally.
  • Utilize agency data, analysis to drive performance.
  • Must have at least two years of child welfare front-line program staff experience.
  • Demonstrate the same respect for staff and other collegues from various backgrounds that they expect to see in staff.

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:


  • Keeps staff focused on the agency mission.
  • Creates an organizational culture that agency supervisors can promote to maximize service delivery capacity.
  • Knows current child welfare principles, best practice developments, emerging issues and research and is able to apply this knowledge to improving processes and programs and engage the support of staff and stakeholders.
  • Analyzes polices and establishes protocols that provide supervisors and front-line practitioners with direction, guidance, supports and resources needed to provide effective, quality services that represent the best practice in child welfare
  • Example : A competent manager advocates for policy change when necessary, insulates front-line staff from organizational crises, and uses mistakes as learning moments, while at the same time holding people accountable for their services to children and families .
  • Understands that budgets drive resources and has the ability to manage budgets in the service of client outcomes. 
  • Analyzes factors contributing to turnover and acts to stabilize both supervisor and practitioner positions and contributes to recruitment of viable candidates.
  • Gathers information and input on issues from staff at all levels and from stakeholders, and decisively implements decisions with an eye toward their systemic implications.
  • Must be accountable to the people of the state and their elected officials or tribal governments for maximizing agency achievement of desired outcomes for children and families and affirms that the agency is a good steward of the public trust and funding.
  • Understands and is sensitive to political realities, but as the liaison to state level officials in the executive and legislative branches, represents the best interest of children and families served and the public child welfare staff.
  • Must have 2 years child welfare prograom staff experience and 2 years child welfare program supervisor experience.




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