This March we are exploring the worker competencies associated with Evaluation, which involves continuously monitoring outcomes of service plans and system programs to determine if the desired goals are being achieved and, if not, to use this information to reconsider goals and strategies developed in the planning phase, or services and resources identified in the implementation stage. Erica Wendlandt, Child and Adult Protection Specialist in Blue Earth County, is our guest contributor this month, and shares her experience and understanding of these competencies.
Every employee must undergo evaluation in their careers. The evaluation process can be misunderstood and even dreaded. We often think of evaluation as pass/fail or simply a piece of paper with check boxes completed once a year. Evaluation does not simply have to be a process that is dictated to us; we also can reach out to families, tribes, organizations and community members for feedback. Becoming more competent in evaluation and conducting self-evaluation can help to improve the process and encourage child welfare practitioners to use it to increase their capacities to serve children and families.
Evaluation is the process of continuously monitoring outcomes of worker performance and the services and systems used to achieve these outcomes. Whether someone is participating in an annual evaluation with their supervisor, a mortality review or processing feedback from a citizen review panel, understanding the process and function of these procedures can enhance the experience. Asking good questions about the processes can help us achieve better outcomes and enhance the experience. The process of evaluation provides a system of checks and balances when used correctly.
Understanding the criteria that is used to evaluate our work can help us to not only meet and exceed the standards but change them if they do not align with our mission and values as we serve families. Evaluation is not a process of finding something a child welfare practitioner is doing wrong but rather an opportunity to identify potential areas of growth. Perhaps once we take the fear factor out of evaluation, we can engage in more self-evaluation and be more open to providing feedback to others. Proper self-evaluation also means to assess ourselves in areas that other entities are not. Self-evaluation can assess for burnout and create an opportunity to seek outside supports, if needed. The worst place one can be in child welfare practice is alone. Evaluation means holding ourselves to the same standards as we hold our clients. We are constantly working with the families we serve to encourage growth and change and provide correction when they go off the determined course. Imagine if we invested the same amount of time in ourselves!
Don’t be afraid to discuss how you practice with colleagues and even the families we serve. If you engage in strengths-based work, sharing that with a family may put them more at ease in your interactions. Ask a family what they think of a case plan that you created with them or how they think they are progressing. Simply asking a family if there is anything else we can do for them can become a form of evaluation as it could help us to address unmet needs and increase capacity. Share positive outcomes with everyone involved in a case.
If there is an area you are lacking in, seek out training and support. When the workload piles up it can seem impossible to fit even an extra hour of training in but the one hour invested can save many hours later. We must also acknowledge that education is not a “one and done”. Growth through evaluation continues throughout our careers as laws change, best practice standards change and we as people change. When we know better, we can do better and we will always do better when we choose to grow together.
The Minnesota Child Welfare Practice Framework is a set of competencies that have been created to assist child welfare professionals in defining and demonstrating their knowledge, skills, and understanding across a number of different practice areas. Refer to page 12 of the Practice Framework to review all competencies related to evaluation, and consider ways to develop your own knowledge and skills.
If you have discovered other resources for developing competencies in evaluation, please share! Email us at email@example.com, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. With a better understanding of the competencies for front-line workers and their supervisors, we can reflect the specific knowledge and skills necessary for culturally-responsive, trauma-informed, and developmentally-based work with children, families, communities, and tribes across Minnesota.