donna“When the Center implemented LAS, our goal was to make it highly applicable to South Carolina,” says Donna Privette, the Center trainer who facilitates the Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS) for child welfare supervisors at the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS).

The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) developed the original online curriculum to enhance the leadership capacity of individuals who work in social services. The Center’s version of LAS for supervisors and performance coaches at DSS is unique and highly impactful. The Center has been dubbed the “rock stars” of LAS nationally according to Marshall Soloway, NCWWI’s LAS Technology Director.

The national NCWWI curriculum was developed by child welfare experts across the country and includes the latest research and best practices in child welfare supervision. When adapting the course for South Carolina, the Center focused on the curriculum’s strengths, combining the rich online content with in-class reinforcement, application, and networking. After each of the five online modules, participants come together for a “learning network” day, where they exchange ideas and focus on ways to apply what they’ve learned.

Implementing a change initiative is a major requirement for each participant. The change initiative is a course of action that the participant identifies to address a need or improve a program area. By implementing their change initiative, participants have an opportunity to practice the leadership skills they are learning during the course.

Often change initiatives include enhancing community partnerships with law enforcement, private counselors, and alcohol and drug abuse providers. Donna uses her considerable experience in developing community partnerships in this course and adds that, “Building strong partnerships is an integral part of leadership and requires specific competencies like advocacy, communication, coordination, collaboration, and negotiation.”

South Carolina is one of only 13 states offering the LAS course. Twenty-five participants including supervisors and performance coaches are nominated by their supervisor each year in South Carolina and proceed through the 4-month course in a cohort.

Terri Thompson who participated in the course says, “Before LAS, I didn’t do anything different for recruitment.” As part of the course, she looked at research on the reasons people left their jobs in any industry. Terri, now a county director at DSS, began to approach the hiring process in a completely different manner with group interviews and more accurate descriptions of a typical day for a staff member.

The Center has been offering LAS to DSS supervisors for four years and has trained over 130 supervisors. Over this period, the expectations and requirements for supervisors have increased. This year Donna is offering increased individual support to participants as they go through the course. The Center is continually improving the course and striving for excellence in every aspect.

Donna says, “As DSS leaders grow and develop their leadership skills, we expect to see increased retention of the workforce and improved services to the children and families of South Carolina.”

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