The current pandemic has reminded us that the work of child welfare professionals is essential, and despite the risks to those who cannot socially distance, there are still vulnerable children who need these workers to continue to address this responsibility. In order to be successful in their positions, child welfare workers and supervisors rely on training and coaching efforts to develop and maintain the skills needed to face this challenging work. Traditionally much of this training has taken place in classrooms and in person, but for now that is not an option. 

Staff at the Minnesota Child Welfare Training Academy (MNCWTA) have worked for the last month to convert state mandated foundation classrooms online. For each course this requires a review and rewrite of the curriculum to address competencies and outcomes that originally required face-to-face interaction, group activities, and assignments that were not designed for digital participation. Using the Zoom Video Communications tool, the training team embraced being trainees and committed to learning all the advanced features of this technology.  

On April 7 the MNCWTA was excited to offer the first ever online Foundations Classroom One 3-Day training. Fourteen participants from across the state logged in and participated in digital small group discussions, processed information from short videos, and engaged with fellow participants to share their experiences. “In some ways this pilot was a test for us around how we can do this work, and how we can be of service to the Child Welfare field,” said Renee Armstrong, Curriculum Development Lead for the MNCWTA. “In any training, we work to meet objectives that tie to knowledge and skills with worker competencies; essentially striving for the absorption of information, application of knowledge to impact decision making and behavior. That’s the goal.” 

Online training adds an additional layer of complexity, given that there are various degrees of comfort and understanding with technology and online interactions. To best accommodate the learners, lead trainers took turns delivering content and engaging the class in discussion, while training support staff were answering “chat” questions and troubleshooting technical issues. “Ultimately as this platform and delivery evolves, I’m encouraged in the possibilities to reach wide audiences, in rich dialogue and accessible settings,” continued Armstrong. “Overall I’m confident we will continue to find ways of adapting to sustain meaningful and challenging opportunities for learners.”

This week the MNCWTA trainers are delivering SISS training online as well as Classroom Two of Foundations. We anticipate training the next four Foundation cohorts (made up of four classrooms, 3 days each) online beginning between now and May. Soon we will also be able to offer Signs of Safety, Case Planning, Defusing Crisis, Structured Decision Making (SDM), and Foster Parent College. In the next few weeks we will post upcoming training opportunities on our website, as well as resources and information to support child welfare professionals and help them thrive in their work.