This November we will explore the supervisor competencies associated with Team Leadership, which involves communicating and utilizing agency mission and vision to support effective practice with children and families in a changing context. Kim Cleminson, Division Director with Ramsey County Social Services, has kindly agreed to share her thoughts on team leadership, how it involves relationships and cultural awareness, and what supervisors need to be successful.

Team Leadership allows for shared power. Historically we have operated from a top down approach doing what is best for the system rather than our families. Ramsey County is working hard to change this narrative and to involve our community every step of the way. It has been so important to hear from those that have been impacted by the work we have done with them and to them. When we open the door and listen, we are able to learn what people need from us. We have heard from the Community through facilitated focus groups that what we have done in the past and often continue to do is harmful and not helpful to children and families. Children belong with their family, with people who love them.

There is power in relationships. Building relationships with our community leads to trust. Trust allows individuals and community partners to work through differences when they come up and they will. It also positions everyone to be in a place to listen and listen deeply, to manage change from a place of curiosity and not judgement and to have sustainable relationships that continue to grow no matter what the issue or challenge may be.

Cultural awareness is one of the most important aspects to decision making in child welfare. We need workers that have lived experience in the communities they are working with, we need to ask important questions to families rather than making judgements based on incomplete information.  In the past we have often made quick life changing decisions in the name of safety.  We know better now and can make better decisions with families without compromising safety. Ramsey County Child Welfare is in the development stage of implementing both a Blind Removal process as well as a Blind/Second Screening process which will include Community members as decision makers.  Our disparities in out of home placement and the child protection system are unacceptable especially in the American Indian and African American Communities. We are empowering and engaging our community to help us change this. We are fortunate to have an open and forgiving community willing to work with us.

Ramsey County has created 3 new units in Child Welfare in order to intervene with families before a child is removed from home. We are learning that parents are the experts on their children and working with them to provide resources and support is what keeps children safe and well.  Team leadership breaks down silos and values the voice of all. When we mis step we need to identify that, apologize and do something different. We often underestimate the impact an individual decision may have on a person or situation. When multiple people are involved in a decision making process, the decision looks different. We are partnering with Law Enforcement and Schools to be a help to families. Team Leadership provides an abundance of resources and tools to support children and families.

Supervisors are an integral part of transforming our system in to a system that values prevention and wellbeing. Supervisors need support in engaging both the community and workers in decisions and changes. They need support to try different strategies that are based on individual families without fear. Team Leadership promotes this approach and good things happen for families and workers.

We have so much to learn and must continue to sit with community to improve our services. We have learned to identify long term problems and the places we have caused harm instead of help.  We have a long road ahead but have learned that community is our partner and we can’t do good work without their voice. We are a Team!

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 pages 19-20 of the Practice Framework to review all competencies related to Team Leadership, and consider ways to develop your own knowledge and skills.

If you have discovered other resources for developing competencies in team leadership, please share! Email us at, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.