RayThe prevalence of mental illness in America’s correctional population is now at a crisis level. Dana DeHart, Assistant Dean of Research at UofSC’s College of Social Work, is taking concrete action to mitigate those issues.

DeHart came to the Center with a deep well of research that could be used to educate correctional officers (COs) and give them specific actions to better address mental illness in their facilities. It fell to the Center to transform the raw research into a training suite that could be used in communities across the United States.

“I sought out services of The Center for Child & Family Studies based on my past experiences with the media team,” DeHart says. “CCFS does an excellent job working with researchers and other stakeholders to translate evidence-based findings into learning objectives, curricula, and professional media products.”

The Instructional Design and Production team took her research and refracted it into a rich array of materials that add up to a comprehensive, community-based training. By working with experts in the social work field in Idaho and Washington State, the team created scenarios and stories that are realistic and intriguing to COs.

The training has twenty modules and can be offered in its entirety or in smaller selections, as needed. All modules have a facilitator’s manual appropriate for a trainer of any level of experience and a coordinated PowerPoint deck that enhances learning. Many modules have short, highly focused video clips of a subject matter expert offering insights, which were shot and edited in-house at the Center. There are also scenarios illustrated by local artist Patrick Fowler and animated by the Center. These animations plunge learners into a challenging situation and help them practice decision-making in a safe environment.

And in an extraordinary boon, the training is free to access and use and is designed to be offered in the community at large. Funded by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, it’s part of a multiyear project titled “Higher Education Partnership on Correctional Mental Health.”

“This project was outstanding to work on,” says project instructional designer Claire Houle. “To use such fascinating information and make it engaging and accessible for community members to use to improve community mental health and connection—well, that is the heart of our mission. I was proud to have been a part of it.”

Most recently, the training was piloted on October 3rd and 4th at the South Carolina Department of Corrections. The pilot was very well-received by trainees and SCDC training staff. Assessment showed significant increase in knowledge about trauma and trauma-informed correctional practice, which were two of the modules offered those days. Also, the module offered on self-care for corrections officers was rated highly. Center staff are excited and hopeful as the training makes its way into the correctional community.

[Pictured: Raymond Smith, PhD candidate, is featured as an expert in the training.]

See the entire training here, including a promotional video, and share it in your community.

Amber MisaCenter researchers for the National Youth in Transition Database have found that housing instability is a major concern for young people leaving the South Carolina foster care system. Almost half of survey respondents reported having lived in five or more homes during foster care. 16% said they experienced homelessness within the past two years. From their review of the data, NYTD researchers Misa Bailey and Dr. Amber Baughman developed recommendations for a data-driven response to this issue. They urged child welfare agencies to offer additional counseling and future-planning support to educate their transition-aged youth on available housing resources.

Since 2010, the National Youth in Transition Database has assisted child welfare providers in better understanding youth experiences and perceptions of foster care. Housed at the Center, South Carolina’s NYTD researchers have surveyed hundreds of youth at regular intervals as they transition into their adult lives. Their respected track record has drawn widespread recognition, including an invitation to present at the American Evaluation Association’s international conference this fall.

The SC NYTD team is continuing to track youth perceptions and experiences involving foster care. In October the team launched a survey of its third cohort of 19-year-old youth. The survey reconnects with respondents interviewed as 17-year-olds in 2016-2017. To accompany federally mandated queries, the SC NYTD team designed questions about education, finances, housing, social support, and access to health care services. These additions add value to the survey. Once processed through the Center’s expert analysis, the results will give providers the data they need to improve services for youth leaving foster care.

(Picture: Amber Baughman and Misa Bailey)

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.”

OctoberfestYvetteKatrina 4822The Center’s major training efforts are delivered to communities around South Carolina through state agencies, so it’s a treat when we can play our part in the academic teaching community of USC. Katrina Stephens and Yvette Sapp, two of CCFS’s Economic Services trainers, presented at the Center for Teaching Excellence’s annual teaching symposium Oktoberbest on October 12th. The annual day-long “celebration of teaching” with guest speakers, panels, and break-out sessions is designed to strengthen the USC teaching community by having outstanding professors, staff, and adjuncts share their best practices and fresh ideas in short presentations.

Stephens and Sapp gave a presentation titled, “Anchored Instruction for Learner Engagement.” In their words, “Anchored instruction is a learning approach which uses video and other technology tools to tell stories involving complex, real-life stories through which learners can apply their knowledge.” The approach places learning within a meaningful, problem-solving context. Therefore, as Stephens and Sapp attest, “anchored instruction can be used by educators across all fields to allow learners to make authentic connections to the learning experience.”

Their presentation indeed practiced what they discussed. Using simple, elegant video prompts, the two trainers folded story-telling into their presentation and had the participants use the story prompts to problem-solve, effectively making the 30-minute presentation a showcase for the USC teaching community to try it out. Audience interest was high since their method can be used to engage large lecture classes, a common teaching challenge here at the university.

As trainers who teach many topics in Economic Services for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Stephens and Sapp have used anchored instruction methods in the training room. Both believe in its effectiveness. As Sapp finds, the method “makes the training material relevant and authentic to the learner. This also incites participation of learners because they want to share their own experiences to solve the problem.”

Both Stephens and Sapp are also learning in the USC community: they’re candidates in the M.Ed. program, focusing on Education Technology. Stephens says, “It was great to reach out within this community, and be active in the university.” Both women agree that CTE’s annual teaching celebration was a fun and dynamic way to connect to the academic community, to teach, and to learn from each other.

(Pictured: Yvette Sapp and Katrina Stephens)

catawaba cameraThe Center has enjoyed a partnership with the Catawba Indian Nation since SCDSS first asked for an updated training about the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (usually shortened to ICWA). ICWA protects the cultural life and well-being of Native peoples by ensuring that all Native children have a chance to remain connected to their tribal family if their parents cannot care for them. 

After performing a needs analysis, the Center and DSS agreed that we would create a number of training elements including a video about Catawba culture and an interactive timeline with highlights from their 6000 years of history.

A team from the Center traveled to the Catawba Indian Nation for three days of interviews and filming on the Reservation. They interviewed former Chief Gilbert Blue and current Chief William Harris. They also interviewed Catawba potters, storytellers, a social worker, a tribal dancer who is also a musician, and native Catawba speakers. The team recorded footage of the Catawba’s annual culture and arts festival at the Longhouse. Back at the Center, the team edited the footage to create a video that brings the story of the Catawba to learners across the state.

By producing training about the history and rich cultural life of the Catawba, the Center hopes to raise awareness about the Catawba. We also hope to show learners how vital keeping Native children and youth connected to their tribe is. The Catawba are South Carolina’s only federally recognized Native American tribe, and reside on part of their ancestral lands in York County. Despite their 6000 years of history in our area, many South Carolinians are unaware of the Catawba’s presence and their rich cultural heritage. The Center sees this video as ambassadorial training, to inform and to bring people to visit the Nation either online or in person.

It has been an honor to work with tribal leadership and record the stories and hopes of the members.

Sylvia PNA 9797The Center’s Quality Assurance (QA) team is developing an extensive new onboarding process that adds value to the Center and exemplifies the height of professionalism. While QA staff continue to refine their inter-rater reliability (IRR) skills, program manager Traci Gilden and program coordinator Sylvia Flint are developing a new competency manual, which further enhances QA’s onboarding and IRR efforts.

More than a method of reaching consensus on case reviews, IRR helps reviewers hone their critical thinking skills and forge bonds of trust and mutual understanding with fellow staff members. QA senior program manager Brenda Amedee says, “Inter-rater reliability is one of the best opportunities to learn on the job and not be judged on how you come down on a rating. It’s an opportunity for growth for everyone, from staff and reviewers, to managers. Everybody participates in this process.” Read more about IRR—and the 2018 NASW symposium where Center faculty and staff presented on the topic—here .

The competency manual Gilden and Flint are developing includes QA-related activities that engage prospects and hired staff at various stages of the onboarding timeline: pre-hire, pre-training, after training, at three months, at six months, and annually. Like IRR, Gilden says, the competency manual “helps us drill down and keeps us reliable in the work we do.”

QA’s recent initiatives offer the Center the promise of professional growth and future opportunities to share our knowledge and skills with other agencies.

MEPAScreenLearners in all arenas fear boring training. To create memorable, meaningful, and motivational learning, the Center uses a context-based approach to learning online, as taught by industry-leader Allen Interactions, Inc. Context-based learning often means using immersive scenarios that mimic the world in which the learner works every day. Scenarios in familiar settings engage practitioners right away and when they return to work, they already have some experience with new skills.
So when tasked with creating a compliance training for the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, the Center set out to create a dynamic, immersive online learning package that shows how vitally important understanding and using MEPA should be―and gives learners actions they can and must take with every placement.

The online learning package grounds learners with a vibrant, illustrated magazine-style online history of the Act, particularly in South Carolina. History can be presented in boring ways―but this document offers case histories and lots of examples to keep the learner intrigued and rooted in practical concerns.

Then, the learners explore a series of scenario-based stories filled with decision points. As the learners gain better understanding of MEPA policy and practice at each step, they receive feedback on their decisions. These story-based scenarios show real-life consequences of learners’ decisions; the story of a child’s life is changed by the learners’ actions. Thus, there are meaningful stakes in the modules. But unlike in the real world, learners can try again and choose another path if they’ve made poor or uninformed decisions. They can see the benefit of making MEPA-compliant decisions―and the harm of poor decisions. 

The scenarios also offer printable resources that leaners can keep for later reference after the training is complete.

The Center eagerly begins the new contract year with plans for further immersive and engaging online and hybrid courses to intrigue, educate and support our partners at SCDSS. 

CINDY LOGO IP V6The Center has been honored with a gold CINDY Award for a video created as part of our partnership with Global Core Strategies and Consulting. The Instructional Design and Production team’s work included custom video and stills, all made in-house, and visible on the company’s website. Global Core has been a faithful partner to the Center in working toward our vision of safe children, healthy families and connected communities. Read more about Global Core and the materials we made here.

The CINDY Awards are given for exceptional non-entertainment media and include categories for business, education, and documentary media. CINDY is an acronym for “Cinema in Industry” and originated as an industrial film competition. CINDY Awards are presented to those who have produced programming that “achieves the highest levels of excellence in production value and message effectiveness,” as the organization defines it. The Center is proud to have received this award.

The Center has often designed solutions to promote community initiatives through SCDSS; sharing important information about programs and community partners is a way we help strengthen local communities.

DP roundtableChildren in danger need the best help possible. To strive for greater skills in child protection, DSS workers and supervisors want to consistently expand and hone their abilities, and the Center is ready to help them.
The Center has launched a series of trainings designed to help child welfare supervisors and workers build upon current knowledge and hone their skills in a peer-to-peer learning environment. Lenora Reese, Senior Manager for Leadership Development says, “The in-service trainings help employees improve and solidify their competency and confidence in terms of casework practice.” Rita Martin, Child Welfare Training Supervisor, also points out that the trainings “provide workers an opportunity to bring their current cases for practice.” Workshopping current cases can help participants apply best practices to real life situations, which kickstarts the use of new skills right away in a supportive environment.

The county-based training topics include:
• Safety planning
• Behavioral objectives
• Self-care
• Documentation
• Signs of Safety

Bringing content from Child Welfare Basic into the county offices, Martin explains, “gives us an opportunity to go directly to the county and that office, so the training is specific to the needs of that office.” Targeted training means immediate benefit for each office and higher participant engagement since their concerns are addressed right away.
Mixing supervisors and workers in one training also has great benefits, since the two populations are often trained separately. Donna Privette, a Training Development Director in leadership, has helped bring the leadership perspective to these trainings and calls them “a rare opportunity to create a dialogue between workers and supervisors about applying best practices.” Here, the two groups can talk to each other in a training context, which allows exploration and solution-finding. Reese agrees: “Supervisors have an opportunity to coach, model, and mentor around the practice outcomes they want to see their staff achieve.” Ultimately, co-training can help an office function better as a whole.

Already, delivering skill-based training in the counties has been effective. Tacita Sumter, a Training Development Director in child welfare, has seen that “Supervisors are interested in knowing what the workers are learning in training so when they communicate with their workers they can understand their viewpoint and be able to coach them better.”

Creating these trainings and opening up a space for worker-supervisor dialogue is a Center method that better enables DSS to serve the vulnerable children of our state.  

WaitingRoomOne of the most important questions we ask when designing any training is: How can we make this training engaging so learners can put their knowledge into action on the job? Boring training can sap meaning from even the most important topics.

So when DSS asked the Center for a memorable and engaging online version of their mandatory training on the crucial Americans with Disabilities Act of 1996, our Instructional Design and Production team knew that it had to be as engaging as possible.

Beyond legal parameters, DSS staff need to know how they can best serve anyone with disabilities. The Center’s instructional designer had to understand what the law states and the best solutions for DSS workers to use. To that end, we interviewed DSS’s ADA Coordinator and members of the disability advocacy group able SC for their expert perspective and knowledge.

Once we had all of the information, the instructional designer drew up prototypes for the design of the course. These are paper-drawn mock-ups of how screens will show information and the interface for activities. The design had to be engaging and interactive. DSS and able SC members met to review and revise the prototypes. Once the prototypes were final, we wrote the scripts that narrated the modules and the activities. After client approval, the project moved into the production phase, where we created customized graphics to bring the training to life.

Since the Center had the pleasure of partnering with a dynamic disability advocacy group, we asked Dori Tempio, able SC’s Director of Community Outreach and Consumer Rights, to appear on camera to help better teach disability-related rights and solutions. She appears in most of the modules with targeted, practical advice and perspective for learners. She greatly enriches the training.

Once the online modules were created and put through Center quality control, DSS staff were given a chance to “road test” the modules and give feedback to make sure that the trainings were on-target and useful for the diverse functions of DSS staff. Some final tweaking assured the training was ready for roll-out across the state.

Lynn McLendon, DSS ADA Coordinator, worked with great responsiveness on the training as it was created. She says, “We appreciate all of the work the Center has done and I think this is a great product for DSS…It will mean a great deal to the clients we serve and help our workers serve our clients much better.”

dssgrad 9629This month we would like highlight the work of two of the Center’s graduate assistants working at SCDSS’s Constituent Services Department. Briannea Hastie and Shayla Evans, both second-years at the College of Social Work, have been with the agency since the spring semester of 2015. Both graduate assistants regularly interface with clients whose families are in crisis, and in many respects, Briannea and Shayla are rare voices of hope for those who call in.

Constituent Services helps SCDSS clients access local services, and takes on the critical role of easing the flow of communication between clients and county offices. Briannea and Shayla have expressed that the two most important skills that they have acquired during their tenure at the agency are patience and empathy, and to perform with the grace and competence that they demonstrate daily means having a healthy dose of each. Briannea and Shayla agree that while the job is certainly challenging, it is rewarding, and they are excited to employ their expertise as they pursue careers in public health and medicine. 

Marilyn Matheus, the Director of Public Information and Media Relations, explained that graduate assistants can gain essential career-building experience from working with the agency: “If individuals pursuing graduate degrees in social work are truly interested in hands-on experience, they should look at an agency like DSS. There are a number of different agencies we interface with who do a lot of social work-type of services.”
Pam Bryant, the current Director of Constituent Services, explains that Briannea and Shayla “have not been part of menial, unrelated tasks—just the opposite. They have been involved in the most important part of our day-to-day work and have been a real asset to us.” Besides having access to hands-on experience and networking opportunities, Briannea and Shayla have become part of a close-knit team. Briannea even notes that the unit has become “like a family.”

Briannea and Shayla, both of whom graduate with their Master of Social Work degrees in May, have a lot to look forward to: Briannea wants to serve the community by getting involved in hospice care, and Shayla dreams of working in healthcare. The Center would like to extend its deepest congratulations to both graduate assistants for their dedication to South Carolina’s children and families.

GC Web Ron and Mike Candid Courtyard copyCommunity partnerships with those who share our values are vital to the Center. Michael Perry and Ron Harvey of Global Core Strategies and Consulting are fellow travelers in our mission to build leadership capacity in those who serve children and families.

In the spring of 2016, the Center invited outstanding community leadership experts to help support DSS during a gold-standard training for middle managers from the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. Perry and Harvey, who specialize in developing sustainably inclusive business cultures, were present as coaches for the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers. They worked with the DSS middle managers on Change Initiatives to improve participants’ offices from within.
Since then, the Center and Global Core have enjoyed working together, helping each other to better fulfill each’s mission and vision.

Through coaching and group facilitation, Perry and Harvey have supported the Center through a transformative time of re-branding and the creation of a new vision. In turn, the Center has helped the company tell its story with dynamic video and custom images for their website. Perry says, “We were amazed at the quality of the work and the thoroughness of the process. The process began with a discussion as the Center took great care in understanding our company, capabilities, and objectives. The Center was capable of taking our entire project from concept to final product—in-house. They handled writing, graphics, video, make-up, photography, and more. The level of expertise demonstrated and care taken by the Center was nothing short of extraordinary. The final product was stunning. Professional, clean, and timeless.”

Beck Sullivan, the program manager who oversaw the video production, says, “It’s always great to work with people as committed to the community’s success the way that Ron and Mike are. They have a different, complementary set of skills to offer community leadership. It’s wonderful to partner with them and we look forward to future projects together.”

Perry feels the same way: “We think we have an amazing partnership with the Center. They are easily accessible, responsive, patient. Each and every individual at the Center is a joy to know and work with. They take the guess work and the stress out of a daunting and complex process. The Center will be a partner of ours for years to come!”

Pictured: Ron Harvey and Michael Perry, Global Core Strategies and Consulting

lenoraCongratulations to Lenora Reese for earning the 2016 UofSC College of Social Work Alumnus of the Year distinction. Lenora is being honored for her outstanding work in social services. “Lenora has been an advocate for underserved populations and a ‘change agent’ in every organization with which she has been affiliated,” says Katrina Spigner, CEO of Re-Source Solutions, who nominated Lenora for the award. After 13 years as a Regional Team Leader for the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), Lenora joined the Center in 2015. As s senior program manager, Lenora and her team collaborate with SCDSS to create numerous leadership trainings including the Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS), Nuts and Bolts, and most recently the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM). These trainings provide the leadership skills needed to enhance the work SCDSS Human Services and Economic Services staff conduct daily.  With her humility and strong work ethic, Lenora embodies the desired characteristics of an outstanding social worker and community organizer. “Lenora is the most passionate and driven professional I have worked with in social services,” says M. Lauren Hobbs, Department of Social Services. This award showcases Lenora’s compassion for the work our partners do and her dedication toward enriching the lives of others. Thank you, Lenora, for your commitment to improving social services in the state of South Carolina.


Dr. Nelís Soto-Ramírez recently conducted a “time series analysis” of monthly Adult Protective Services (APS) reports—calls to the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) reporting suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of elderly and disabled adults. The purpose of this study was to predict future report numbers so that the agency could anticipate the rising level of reports and prepare its case managers to handle the increase in investigations accordingly.

In May, Soto-Ramírez presented findings from her study at the Modern Modeling Methods Conference (M3) at the University of Connecticut. Organized as a “poster session,” the M3 was Soto-Ramírez’s first conference as a Center employee. Her poster details the analysis she used to help inform and ultimately improve DSS’s response to future APS reports.

Experts often use time series analyses to forecast otherwise-unpredictable numbers in areas like public health and economics. Soto-Ramírez’s employment of this method in APS demonstrates her skill and expertise in applied statistics, which makes her partnership with DSS invaluable.

As a Senior Research Associate at the Center, Soto-Ramírez regularly conducts studies like these that use applied statistics and community-derived research to assist DSS in all of its program areas. She enjoys working with the agency and knows the partnership is making a positive impact in South Carolina. “It’s more indirectly impactful,” she says, comparing her role with that of DSS workers. “But I like to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable populations.”

Jodi Hill-LillyStrong leadership gets the best results and the South Carolina Department of Social Services is further strengthening its new generation of leadership to help children and families with the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM), a national curriculum being implemented by USC and SCDSS. The goal is to empower leaders in the agency to lead with greater vision and enact real change within their teams and communities.

This training kicked off in January with an orientation session for the community leaders who have agreed to be coaches for the participants, led by two national level trainers who will be delivering the material, Jodi Hill-Lilly and Tricia Mosher.Katrina Spigner

A unique feature of the LAMM is the inclusion of coaches for participants. These coaches range from social work professionals and professors to business owners and leadership experts. Katrina Spigner of Re-Source Solutions, LLC is an experienced coach and social work professional who is serving as lead coach for the process. Ms. Spigner believes that the “coaching piece is the critical role to bridging between the day to day and reality, helping to connect what is happening every day to the future. Coaching helps the participants enlarge their perspective from a new vantage point.”

Specifically, South Carolina is doing something new to this national curriculum by including coaches from areas other than social work. Trainer Jodi Hill-Lilly believes that one advantage of this training is the ability to create a common language about leadership and change throughout the agency. She said, “By including coaches from outside of the agency, it allows the community to share a common vision for the welfare of children and families.”



Rebecca Carney White Bkgd 5 x7The Center is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Rebecca Carney to the position of Quality Assurance (QA) program manager and Out of Home Abuse and Neglect (OHAN) QA supervisor. Carney is an experienced leader, a certified grant writer, and a Licensed Master Social Worker, making her one of the most dynamic and highly skilled new hires at the Center. Preceded by her excellent reputation in the Child Welfare community, Carney’s arrival represents a promise to increase the Center’s already growing capacity to fulfill its mission in South Carolina and beyond.

One of the biggest assets Carney brings with her is her grant writing experience, which has centered on foundational grants to support evidence-based programs. She received her grant writing certification in 2005 from the National Grant Writers Association, in cooperation with Research Associates, when she was working at the non-profit Children Unlimited, Inc.

Carney also has 20 years of management experience, serving in leadership roles and providing support in the areas of foster care, adoption, independent living, and community-based prevention services. She has also implemented group-setting prevention services like the Strengthening Families Program.

Carney is excited to be a part of the Center, whose values are closely aligned with her own. She says her goal is “to further contribute based on my non-profit experience in an effort to expand and diversify our opportunities to work with other organizations.”

QA’s Senior Program Manager Brenda Amedee has great confidence in Carney. She says there were many excellent applicants for the job, but ultimately Carney was beyond qualified, possessing a vast range of skills and experience that make her well suited to a job that requires flexibility and capacity-building vision.

“Having someone we could bring on board with this knowledge and expertise, not just for QA but for the entire Center, was good,” Amedee says. “This wasn’t just about hiring a QA manager; it was about doing what was best for the Center.”

psychotropic2A new training for DSS caseworkers on the use of psychotropic medication for children in care has launched. This training is important given growing concerns nationwide that children in foster care are being prescribed psychotropic medication at higher levels than children who are not in foster care. Statistics show that in South Carolina, nearly three out of four children in Intensive foster care take some form of psychotropic medication.

Since many children in foster care have experienced traumatic events, and since trauma often imitates symptoms of mental health disorders, diagnosing children in foster care can be a complex process. Nevertheless, according to Heather Williamson, a DSS regional clinical specialist, “caseworkers do not have to be mental health experts.” She says that this training is “designed to strengthen the advocacy, informed decision-making, and monitoring roles in casework practice to reduce inappropriate psychotropic use and to increase the use of psychosocial support that considers trauma and responsive care processes first.”

The training consists of an online portion and an in-person portion. Developed by the Center’s Information Design staff, the online portion consists of four interactive modules. Participants are required to complete these four interactive modules before the in-person training. The modules include live-action video written, directed, and shot by Information Design staff. The in-person training consists of intensive group discussion and role-play activities that help caseworkers hone skills they need in the field.

The training was developed through a collaboration between Center staff and DSS employees, including Williamson, consulting psychiatrists Dr. Anita Khetpal and Dr. Randy Spencer, and DSS Lead Clinical Specialist Tim Nix. The Center is proud to play a role in the development of this exciting and significant project and looks forward to working with DSS on similar projects in the future.

NASWConf Presenters 9926This spring, Dr. Suzanne Sutphin, Brenda Amedee, and Traci Gilden joined Malik Whitaker at the 2018 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) South Carolina Spring Symposium, presenting on strategies to improve systems that assist children and families in the state.

A Research Assistant Professor at the Center, Sutphin collaborated with Amedee, the Senior Program Manager for Quality Assurance (QA), and QA reviewer Gilden, describing in their session QA’s experience using the inter-rater reliability (IRR) process and explaining how it can be implemented at other agencies.

Sutphin and Whitaker, the Continuous Quality Improvement Director at the Department of Social Services (DSS), presented on the agency’s Child Welfare Program Improvement Plan (PIP), which aims to reform the system and work toward the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in care.

Essentially QA for QA, IRR helps Amedee, Gilden, and the rest of the QA team refine their review process, making it even more effective in helping keep the agency accountable to the state’s children and families. IRR gives reviewers a chance to look at how they’re rating items and to see (1) if they’re rating items the same way, and (2) if the rationale they used to reach their conclusion was the same. Amedee noted, moreover, that IRR can be applied just about anywhere and in any discipline, especially when there is a large number of individuals performing the same task.

During his session with Sutphin, Whitaker emphasized implications of the PIP for community partners, who work closely with the agency and who need to know what’s going on in order to support the work the agency does. The Center is one such partner. In fact, Whitaker said the Center “has been an integral part of the agency’s vision of an excellent child welfare system.”

Ultimately, Whitaker is aiming for system reform that goes beyond mere compliance with federal mandates. He says the high standards—including the goal of a 95% success rate for safety, permanency, and well-being—make sense, since the welfare of children and families is at stake.

We thank Sutphin, Amedee, Gilden, and Whitaker for partnering and sharing their knowledge and expertise with the Child Welfare community and other partners at the NASW symposium this year.

Pictured: Malik Whitaker, Continuous Quality Improvement Director (DSS); Brenda Amedee, Senior Program Manager for Quality Assurance (Center); Traci Gilden, Quality Assurance Supervisor (Center); Suzanne Sutphin, Research Assistant Professor (Center)

In honor of National Mentoring Month, we reached out to Dr. Suzanne Sutphin, a Research Assistant Professor at the Center, to learn more about the value of mentorship. Dr. Sutphin oversees all Quality Assurance data and training evaluations across the state, and relies on the hard work of her Graduate Assistants (GAs) to fulfill the Research Team’s objective, which is to gather data that informs decision-making at DSS as the agency strives to continuously improve its service to children and families.

The Research Team is responsible for everything data at the Center: they develop all Center training and conference evaluations, analyze Quality Assurance review data for counties across the state, and write data-driven reports. The team’s GAs are critical to these functions.

During their time at the Center, Research GAs are typically completing their degrees in social work or a related field, and are responsible for a number of tasks, from compiling reports to analyzing qualitative and quantitative data. Dr. Sutphin collaborates closely with her GAs to ensure the quality and accuracy of all produced materials.

The GAs are not only beneficial to the Center, but are guaranteed numerous opportunities for their own professional development. For example, GAs learn how to use analytic software like SPSS and NVivo, employ various analysis methods, and develop strong working relationships with their colleagues. Also, GAs who are interested in child welfare get a birds-eye view of what’s happening across the counties, and this experience is particularly valuable for those who will go on to work for DSS after they graduate.

As a mentor, Dr. Sutphin tries to cultivate the kinds of relationships with her GAs where mentorship continues beyond their time at the Center. And her mentoring philosophy has paid off—former GAs regularly turn to her for advice, from continuing education to future careers.

When asked what she would like to share with her GAs, Dr. Sutphin said, “I’m able to produce quality work because of their help and support. The amount of what I do would not be possible without their help.”

APSWomanWheelchairBed 9221Vulnerable adults in South Carolina will be better served as a result of a grant the Center wrote in collaboration with the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS). Because of its close partnership with the Center, the Adult Advocacy Division at DSS asked the Center for assistance in writing a grant proposal. DSS has been awarded the Victims of Crime Act funds to increase its capacity to serve vulnerable adults across the state.

Center staff worked closely with DSS to identify program service needs, including specialized intake practitioners to take reports about the abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults. The Center’s statistician used data from the past two years to project the number of reports that will be made over the next several years. In addition, Center staff developed the objectives and evaluation measures, worked collaboratively with DSS to draft the proposal, and coordinated the various parties needed to put the final proposal together.

“The Adult Advocacy Division at DSS is pleased to partner with The Center,” said Kelly Cordell, Director of the Adult Advocacy Division and a graduate of USC’s College of Social Work master’s program. “The assistance we received in writing the VOCA grant was invaluable.” With the awarded funds, DSS will be piloting a new program that brings together a vulnerable adult’s relatives and others in their support network to develop long-term plans to support the individual.

The funds will also allow DSS to hire more intake practitioners who specialize in adult protective services as well as a Victim Advocate who will work as a liaison between APS and local law enforcement.

“We’re proud that we were able to help DSS with this project to enhance support for vulnerable adults in the state,” said Courtney Foxe, the Center’s Training Program Manager for Adult Advocacy, who led the Center staff to success.

marvitaRecently hired as the program coordinator for leadership development at the Center, Marvita Franklin, MHRD, believes that leaders in organizations like DSS and the Center can learn a lot about themselves, their employees, and their institutions from sports psychology. In fact, Franklin believes leaders can apply strategies that help athletes improve their performance to their own jobs, making them more effective in the workplace.

Franklin is especially drawn to the ideas of Dr. Robert Nideffer, a sports psychologist whose interactions with world-class athletes led him to discover four traits they have in common: focus, confidence, commitment, and adaptability. Franklin will be delivering a new training that looks at the ways in which these traits resonate with leadership. The first training of the series, “Leading Under Pressure: Adaptive Strategies for Enhancing Leader Effectiveness,” is being offered to Center leaders in December; the series will be launching with DSS in January 2016.

Franklin has vast experience with the material and has been a leader herself in various capacities. Before joining the Center staff, she served in the United States Air Force (now retired), worked for the Army coaching recruiting leaders to improve performance, and helped develop training curricula and materials for various organizations.

The first “Leading Under Pressure” training addresses the importance of being mentally tough and adaptive as leaders. Before this training, participants take the TAIS inventory (Theory of Attentional and Interpersonal Style), which helps them understand their personal strengths and vulnerabilities as leaders.

Future trainings will address topics ranging from strategic communication and coaching to decision making and organizational change. Franklin is excited to be on board at the Center and looks forward to developing and delivering these trainings in the coming weeks and months.

Janel Marvita 0228Center staff members continue to sharpen their skills and enhance the Center’s capacity for excellence. Leadership Project Manager Marvita Franklin has earned a distinguished Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and is using her skills to improve the Center’s management tools and processes. Quality Assurance (QA) Program Manager Janel Mitnaul has completed two case review trainings and helped conduct Colorado’s Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). QA reviewers Natrisha Starr, Traci Gilden, LaTonya Patterson, and Kellena Nelson completed case review trainings in early January.

Marvita’s PMP certification is the “gold standard” of its kind. Her experience in this program has helped her on various Center projects, including the Placement Needs Assessment, a vast research project that involved multiple staff and many moving parts. Marvita has the professional skills needed to assist other organizations with the management of staff and projects as well. “By having the tools and the protocols available to us,” she says, “we have a starting point that allows us to be more responsive to our clients.”

Janel has now completed two case review trainings with JBS International, one on first-level internal reviews and the other on second-level external reviews. Janel was invited by JBS to help conduct Colorado’s CFSR. She learned a lot from the experience, but one of the most critical takeaways was the realization that her fellow QA reviewers are among the best in the country―since they do these reviews every week. “The biggest thing,” she says, “was the confidence that I could bring back to our staff, to say, ‘We’re doing this right.’”

Inspired by this confidence, Janel’s colleagues Natrisha, Traci, LaTonya, and Kellena completed the review training earlier this year. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our QA team, the Center now has an in-house second-tier level of reviewers—comparable to federal reviewers that states hire. As this group learns more about the federal reviews, they help us refine our state review to more closely mirror the federal process. We have the capacity to help other child welfare systems with QA. We can also adapt our processes and technical skills to meet the needs of other state agencies.

We’re proud of these staff and look forward to seeing how their expertise will shape Center projects in the future.

Pictured: Marvita Franklin (standing), who earned her Project Management Professional certification, and Janel Mitnaul (seated), who is a federal CFSR reviewer, second-tier state-level reviewer, and program manager for the Center.

ritaaceIn July, Rita Martin participated in a statewide initiative sponsored by the Children’s Trust to prevent and address Adverse Childhood Experiences, a major public health issue across the United States. ACEs are traumatic events during a child’s life, such as abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and homelessness. A relationship exists between ACEs and negative health and well-being outcomes as an adult, which makes ACEs an important part of child welfare practice. To increase awareness of ACEs, Children’s Trust brought nationally known ACE trainers Laura Porter and Dr. Robert Anda to South Carolina to train a group of 30 individuals from across a wide range of fields, including child advocacy, business, education, faith, health care, juvenile justice, and child welfare. Martin represented the Center in this training.

With over 15 years of child welfare experience, Martin currently serves as the manager of the child welfare trainers at the Center. Thus, she is in the unique position of being able to infuse the ACEs material into many areas, both at the Center and at the Department of Social Services.

In September, Martin and Megan Branham, with the Children’s Trust, delivered the ACEs training to staff here at the Center, in order to inform all center practice with the latest ACEs best practices. Louisa Vann, a Center research associate who attended the training, said, “The training directly relates to my work at the Center as I interview youth transitioning out of foster care. ACEs training reiterates the need to take trauma into consideration when working with children and youth.”

The goal of the Children’s Trust initiative is to share accurate information across the state about the prevalence of ACEs and the effects that these adverse childhood experiences have on future health and well-being. The Center will take that information and strengthen our projects and trainings with it.

Martin says of the ACEs initiative, “I am excited about the efforts being made in South Carolina to become proactive, spread the word, and encourage the community to TAKE ACTION towards prevention and using the ACEs training as a vehicle to do so.”

LMS Portrait 0022Some of the Center’s online trainings for DSS are leaving the nest! The Center has been hosting most of DSS’s online learning courses and components in our Learning Management System (LMS) for years. But DSS has recently launched its own brand-new, in-house LMS. The Center has been right alongside for consulting and support as DSS selected the LMS, and we’re now working hand-in-glove as DSS adds Center-created content to their new system.

The DSS LMS is a central hub for online training and reports. Michael Palmer, DSS LMS Administrator, is happy with what the new LMS will bring to DSS. “I’m really pleased with the new LMS and its integration with eLearning is great,” he says. “Staff and supervisors can use the LMS for many trainings and reports and all of their data will be one place.”

The first course to be transferred from the Center’s LMS to DSS’s is the updated, agency-wide compliance training on Civil Rights (Part I and Part II). Civil Rights has been a mandatory agency-wide course for decades but 2017 saw a big refresh of the content. The Center shot the two-part video locally and with a broad array of local talent. The Center has made the course engaging and informative to emphasize the importance of compliance and to correct any misperceptions staff may have about their responsibilities. Now, DSS staff can access the training on their own system and handle rollout in-house.

Palmer says the partnership between the Center and DSS has been smooth and easy: “We’ve worked hand-in-hand together; there’s been good work between the two components.” Center staff from our Instructional Design and Production team who specialize in LMS administration have consulted along the way and facilitated the creation of documents to help course creation in the DSS LMS be as efficient and accurate as possible.

This is the beginning of a new partnership of LMS consulting and cooperation between the Center and a long-term client. We look forward to helping DSS maximize the effectiveness of their training and tracking tool.

Pictured: Brittany Rice (seated) and Lisa Stuchell from the Center’s Instructional Design & Production team

mcknightThe South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) has implemented a new direction with foster parenting. DSS’ recruitment efforts include retaining current resource family homes and increasing the number of homes throughout the state. DSS is also striving to recruit families who are willing to assist both children and birth families. The Center is collaborating with DSS to help the agency reach its goals.

Recruiting resource parents begins with retention. To do this, DSS has created the Regional Resource Family Support Unit. According to Beth Mullins, Director of the Support Units, “These units will play a critical role in ensuring resource families have the tools and knowledge they need to make the foster care experience the best it can be for their own family, and especially for the children that they will care for in their homes.” The Center and DSS have developed the Supporting Resource Families training to explain the role of the support units and the many ways they can offer assistance and reassurance to resource families.

Along with the Supporting Resource Families training, the Center and DSS have developed the Shared Parenting training to reflect the shift in resource family recruitment. As Beth Mullins explains, “We are being more intentional in our recruitment. That means we are recruiting resource families who better serve the children’s needs: geographically, socially, and therapeutically.”

The Shared Parenting training further emphasizes a need for foster families to act as resources and to serve as a support to both the children in care and to the birth families. Carla Tunnell, a DSS Performance Coach and a trainer of Shared Parenting, explains the benefit of this training: “The Shared Parenting training can encourage everyone involved in a DSS foster care case to work as a team and to ultimately take part in the reunification process.”      

In addition to training, the Center has been instrumental in helping DSS create a unified recruitment campaign. According to Ginger Cassell, a Multimedia Developer with the Center’s Information Design team, “We are designing and producing all types of collateral materials to help DSS with its foster care recruitment efforts across the state.” These materials include flyers, brochures, postcards, displays, and a variety of promotional items like t-shirts, cups, and key chains.

DSS’ new approach to recruitment has a direct impact on the welfare of children in South Carolina. According to Deborah McKnight, a resource parent for thirty years who has parented over 100 children, becoming a resource parent can also affect more than just the children in care: “I think it's important for people to become foster parents to bring about a change. We're trying to bring about a change in ourselves and we want to bring a change in our society. If we can make a difference in that child’s life, then we can make a difference in the future.”

DHHS Team Candid 9854The Center is proud to announce a new partnership with the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The Center is in the first phase of a multi-year partnership to train Medicaid staff for DHHS. The first step, happening now, is taking over the two-day Medicaid Orientation training. This foundational training introduces Medicaid eligibility workers to the various Medicaid programs and the different computer systems they will be using. In the future, the Center will take over multi-week trainings designed to equip workers with the skills and policy knowledge needed for assisting applicants with eligibility determination for the appropriate Medicaid program. This partnership signals a new direction of the Center’s mission: supporting the health care needs of children and families.

Medicaid is important to South Carolinians. In 2016, more than a fifth of South Carolina’s 4.8 million residents received Medicaid benefits, according to Medicaid Policy Research at the USC Institute for Families in Society. That’s a lot of people needing support and guidance about their coverage so they can receive routine and urgent care.

To best fulfill our partner’s needs, the Center will bring its diverse array of teams to the DHSS project. Center writers will adapt and update curricula to make them as current, informative, and engaging as possible. Center production staff will create media elements that are fresh and thought-provoking. Center trainers will bring the new curriculum to life, equipping DHHS staff to will take their knowledge into our communities.
Program Manager James Randolph is invigorated by the new challenges and possibilities in the partnership: “We’ve worked to find a way to serve DHHS as part of our mission and both DHHS and Center staff are excited about this new partnership. Our two organizations have a lot in common: we want to improve lives.”

The connection between DHHS and the Center was forged by the Center’s longtime partner, the SC Department of Social services. Randolph finds this deeply satisfying: “Our long-time client DSS recommended our services to DHHS. That feels pretty good, to know that we’ve served a client so well that they saw we could benefit others,” he says.

The Center is ready to move into the future with a new partner and new ways to fulfill our mission.

Pictured: New Medicaid trainers Kendra Pickett (seated),Ebony Ligon, and Tuesday Duckett

kinshipWhen a child is removed from their home for safety and goes not to foster care but to a relative or family friend, they enter what’s known as Kinship Care, a practice as old as human society. Driven by our mission to support best practices in child welfare, the Center’s Information Design team designed and produced an online training to alert DSS workers to a series of important enhancements to the growing practice of Kinship Care in South Carolina. And, in order to more fully engage DSS staff, the Center welcomed DSS Kinship Care Coordinator Chasity Washington into the studio to provide narration for the training.

SCDSS, in a nationwide trend, sees Kinship Care as a best practice when children must leave their homes. In fact, our state has seen an 18% increase in kinship placements in the last year alone, which is a sign that children in danger are going to people they already know and trust. Even when foster families are loving and welcoming, removal is traumatic for children. So SCDSS has added some enhancements workers and caregivers can use to strengthen Kinship Care.
The Center’s training introduced an array of enhancements to state practice.

First, DSS has moved away from using the term “Alternative Caregiver” to Kinship Caregiver. The word “kinship” better expresses the stability and comfort a child can draw from care by someone they know and trust. And when Caregivers are acknowledged as “kin” by DSS, they are better able to see their own value and know themselves to be a crucial part of a child’s network of support.

Next, there are now Kinship Care Coordinators in all regions of the state. These Coordinators can help workers or Kinship Caregivers find needed resources for their children: financial, social and emotional supports differ around the state so the Coordinators always know where to turn.

The training also showed workers new forms that help Kinship Caregivers and biological parents clearly understand what’s expected of them and what’s appropriate, making the time in Kinship Care easier while parents make their choices about working towards reunification.

Finally, DSS’s documentation system, CAPSS, has many added enhancements to help keep children safe and to gather data that can be used to improve Kinship Care experiences in the future. South Carolina is leading the way in kinship data gathering and analysis; other states may be able to use South Carolina’s data to see trends they also can plan for. The Center also hopes to use Kinship data to help DSS keep its practice at the cutting edge of child protective services.

The Center also supports the practice of Kinship Care with our Kinship Care website, which is full of multimedia resources for community members who may be new to Kinship Care. This vital information can help Kinship Care go more smoothly and keep children safe and thriving in lifelong families.


CFSR Virgil Tedra 9717 250x250Thanks to the precision and reliability of the Center’s Quality Assurance staff (QA), South Carolina was allowed to conduct its own Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) this year. The CFSR looks closely at each state’s child welfare system and provides states with a baseline for measuring the improvement of the system.

Brenda Amedee, Senior Program Manager of QA at the Center, knew that her staff could handle the CFSR because they have a proven record of conducting thorough, competent reviews for the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

Mary Ellen Nold, a personal service contractor who worked closely with QA on this CFSR, confirmed Amedee’s conviction. Nold said, “The feds wanted to give states a chance to use their own QA, and South Carolina was a good fit. It’s great that South Carolina has a system in place that supports this kind of rigorous self-examination.”

One of the challenges of conducting a CFSR is having to learn and use a required federal instrument to guide the review process. In working with the Center, Nold saw that QA was up to the challenge. She said, “I’ve seen the growth and development of the QA staff. They demonstrate a really good knowledge of the federal instrument.”

Amedee, along with everyone else at the Center, shares Nold’s faith in our QA staff. Their reliability and dedication to conducting thorough reviews make a real difference in our state.

(Pictured: Tedrea Wilson and Virgil D’Antignac, two of the Center’s QA Reviewers)

The Center’s Training, Curriculum, and Information Design staff turned out in force on August 18-19, along with key stakeholders, for a two-day training in the SAM development model in order to create stronger, memorable, more siteseffective training in person and online.

The SAM, or Successive Approximation Model , method was created by Michael Allen and Richard Sites, of the Allen Interactions firm, and relies on early meetings with a diverse group of brainstormers who create iterative prototypes. These “Savvy Starts” with iterative prototyping challenge designers to find the best way to train a topic before investing capital and time in production.

Sites came to Columbia and led an engaging and challenging training that has energized the staff. Curriculum writer Casey Carroll says, “I’m excited about the higher levels of learning that we’ll be able to facilitate with closer collaboration in early stages of development.”

In fact, just days after the training, staff are already making use of what they learned. A fundamental principle of the method is to focus training on situating training in the context in which workers do their jobs. As trainer and author Richard Sites explained, it makes the training more memorable and better prepares the worker for fieldwork.

After learning this, trainer Tacita Sumter scrapped her first plans for a training and started afresh, by basing scenarios in the context the trainees would be acting in: “Using context gave me a good starting point―it brought me from a wide view down to the worker’s perspective in the field. What do they need to do? I moved from just imparting knowledge to giving them choices to make and actions to take. I feel like it’s more likely they’ll know what to do when they get out in the field―because they’ve done it already in training.”

The Center exists to support those who help children and families and we welcome the chance to grow and extend our effectiveness to further our mission. We see the SAM method as a big part of keeping us at the cutting edge of training development and implementation.

Center Interim Director Cindy Flynn says of the new method: “Our goal is for participants to take the skills they learn during training and immediately apply them to their work. This new model of instructional design enables us to produce that type of training because it really focuses on learner behavior in the workplace.”

APS Competencies 9812The importance of Child Protective Services sometimes overshadows that of Adult Protective Services. But the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Center know that vulnerable adults must not be forgotten. This year, DSS and the Center teamed up to create a new basic training for case managers in Adult Protective Services (APS). This new training aims to improve the skills of APS case managers and ultimately improve the lives of vulnerable adults across the state.

The new training is 18 days delivered over six weeks and runs on an engine of 22 performance-based competencies. Participants master these competencies by successfully completing various intensive assessments.

To ensure that every competency is addressed in the training, members of the development team came up with a competency-by-assessment chart that shows how each assessment in the training satisfies the different competencies. For example, Assessment 3, which asks participants to create mock questions for an intake scenario, intersects with the competency about critical thinking as well as the competency about following the intake process.

The activities and assessments ensure that the competencies are put to work. On top of this, the development team devoted two of the weeks to skills practice in small groups. Group one comes in on Monday, group two on Tuesday, and so on. This way, each small group receives an intensive day of training in which participants work to hone critical interviewing skills. Between weeks, participants complete shadowing assignments to supplement what they learned and practiced in class.

APS Training Manager Courtney Foxe says the new design allows participants to apply their knowledge immediately, to “make the connection between what they’re learning and what they’ll be doing on the job.” Participants “get to work their very first case before they work their very first case.”

Congratulations to the project’s development team on completing this project. We are proud to play a special role in improving the skills of case managers and the lives of our fellow citizens across the state.

osaIt’s often a sad truism that a person’s doctor knows their health least because a doctor sees patients in such long intervals. But what if caregivers had the medical knowledge to be the eyes and ears of the doctor, all the time?

That’s what the new Home Care Specialist (HCS) Training, from the Office of the Study of Aging at UofSC, aims to do. Created and developed by Carol Cornman and Courtney Davis, HCS training is designed for Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) who are already in the homes of the elderly, giving them daily personal care. The training gives basic but targeted medical knowledge to PCAs, who could alert medical teams for preventative care. The trained Home Care Specialists can also help keep clients on track with their personal Plan of Care to help keep them healthy. This way, clients can avoid preventable acute medical conditions and stay safely and comfortably at home, where they want to be. Visits to the ER and hospitalizations are costly and traumatic; avoiding them when possible is a best practice in elder care.

The Center’s Information Design team worked closely with Cornman and Davis to develop thirteen highly focused modules and two videos that would, over time and on demand, teach PCAs to recognize, record, and report warning signs of impending acute health episodes. The two videos demonstrate the person-centered philosophy of good home care. The learner can take the online modules at their own pace. If they pass ten of the thirteen modules, they receive the Home Care Specialist Certification.

Topics the modules cover are the most common ailments our society experiences, which PCAs see frequently in their clientele: congestive heart failure, dehydration, dementia, urinary tract infections, and falls, among others. This training isn’t med school, but it is a solid foundation in recognizing warning signs that, if caught early, can greatly improve a client’s quality, and even length, of life.

Claire Houle, a writer who worked on the project, believes the training series to be a strong contribution to the life of the community: “By the time I finished drafting the module on dehydration, I understood that the seriousness of the condition is greater than I had ever suspected. I would never have guessed that dehydration can look like dementia! I was really impressed by how practical, engaging, and instantly actionable the modules were. I think this can reach and improve a lot of lives.”

The online training is scheduled to go live in the Fall of 2015 linking from the Office of the Study of Aging website.

OHAN Traci JeanSan 9760Stability, safety, and well-being—these are just a few outcomes children in foster care should experience. Unfortunately, not all children in care will. A recent lawsuit exposed many flaws within the South Carolina foster care system, specifically problems with accepting and investigating reports of Out-of-Home Abuse and Neglect (OHAN). To assist the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) with these problems, the Center created a review process and a training that will develop and strengthen the skills of all OHAN staff.

The Center’s Quality Assurance (QA) team collaborated with SCDSS and federal court monitors to create a review instrument that would evaluate OHAN Intake reports. This instrument focused on the ability of OHAN staff to correctly identify which Intake reports should be accepted for investigation and which ones should be screened out. Both the federal court monitors and QA examined these reviews, passed the data along to OHAN, and guided OHAN on ways to change their practice. “The QA team has the ability, the knowledge, and the skill set to really make a difference and help OHAN reach their goals,” explains Traci Gilden, the Center’s QA and Special Projects Program Manager.

The QA reviews also revealed specific areas within OHAN that needed to be trained.  Using the data from these QA reviews, the Center’s Training and Instructional Design and Production teams worked closely with OHAN to develop a four-day, blended learning training. According to Instructional Designer Lisa Stuchell, “The QA reviews allowed us to create a training that concentrates on the needs of our client and that will equip OHAN staff with the information they need to be successful in the future.”

The OHAN Intake Training will directly impact children in foster care. “We owe it to these children—children who have already experienced abuse and neglect—to live in safe environments and to not be re-victimized. It’s our job to make sure all children in foster care are safe and protected,” explains Gilden. Through the Center’s evaluation of OHAN Intakes and the development of this training curriculum, OHAN staff will improve their Intake process and ensure children in foster care feel safe, protected, and cared for.

On May 20th and 21st, The Center for Child and Family Studies partnered with SCDSS Economic Services to present the Economic Services Case Management Conference for case managers and supervisors from around the state. The James7279conference featured presentations by UofSC trainers, DSS leaders, and a panel of representatives from community partners including the Department of Probation, Parole, Pardon Services, the Vocational Rehabilitation Department, and the Department of Mental Health. Topics included time management, professionalism, and dealing with generational differences in the workplace.

The goal of the conference was to provide case managers and supervisors the opportunity to learn about any policy changes as well as best practices. CCFS trainer Cheryl Gant said, “What I hope the participants take away is how they can better serve the clients, and how they can keep the clients’ best interests at heart. Even though we have policy and procedures, they must remember that at the end of the day, this is someone’s life that you are impacting.”

DSS participants and trainers alike also have the opportunity to make connections with colleagues that they may not regularly see. Ms. Gant values these connections, stating that presenting at conferences like this one “gives me an opportunity to see people that I haven’t seen in a long time, but at the same time I enjoy sharing my knowledge with those that will use it to help the clients that they serve.”

insight telly awards 250x250The highly competitive Telly Awards recognize excellence in video and television across the nation. For the Center, it’s a special honor to receive awards for creating video that embodies our work’s purpose and meaning. The four winning projects were created to strengthen community connections around child welfare: a short documentary called “Come to Know the Catawba” and three recruitment spots for foster youth advocacy programs called Go Out and Live Life (GOALL) and Youth Voice.

“Come to Know the Catawba”
“Come to Know the Catawba” was created to educate our state’s entire child welfare community about the culture and importance of the Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina’s only federally recognized Indian tribe. This video actually won two awards: A bronze Telly Award and a bronze People’s Telly Award, which is chosen by the media community.

The video was part of a multimodal training on the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law enacted to preserve Native American culture and families. “This law is important,” says Claire Houle, the project writer. “But the law comes alive to a child welfare worker when they come to see the Catawba as South Carolinians. By hearing Catawba stories and their hopes for the future, child welfare workers will see the heart of why the law is important.”

Media Developer Ginger Cassell also found great meaning in the project: “Working on the Catawba Indian reservation, going back in time and learning the history was an honor.” The tribe, led by Chief Bill Harris, was an outstanding partner during production and the Center values this new relationship. You can watch the video here.

Foster Youth Recruitment Campaign Videos
Also honored were three recruitment videos for Go Out and Live Life (GOALL) and Youth Voice, created to engage foster youth in the state-wide advocacy programs to improve foster care in our state. Each video won a bronze Telly.

GOALL and Youth Voice are advocacy groups made up of youth with foster care experience who offer their unique understanding to improve the system. The programs offer leadership and advocacy training to these young people, a number of whom appeared in the videos. For Ginger Cassell, “It was great working with the foster youth to create this recruitment series from the ground up. GOALL is an amazing program – we had a lot of fun creating an engaging appeal for foster youth to join this organization.” You can see the GOALL and Youth Voice videos here, and here.

High Quality Means Better Learning
Beck Sullivan, Senior Program Manager of the Instructional Design and Production team, firmly believes that high quality video is crucial to learner investment in their training. “Quality makes a difference for the learner, and we're committed to making the most of the resources we have to create quality,” she says. “We were asked to explain a culture in the Catawba project. The quality of the production gets a learner invested.” Cassell believes that “It’s our job to invent, create and tell stories.” Houle agrees: “It’s often through story that people connect new ideas to their own experience. That’s what creates change. So when we’re asked to tell someone’s story, that’s a pretty big responsibility.”

The Center is dedicated to making production choices to help our clients get the highest quality production no matter what their budget. “Careful decisions are key,” declares Sullivan. So much is possible when creativity, talent and careful planning meet. The Telly Awards are a confirmation that our efforts are worth it for our clients and those they serve.

Jessica Cabrera, Program Coordinator at The HABLA Project, recently published an article with the South Carolina Midlands Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).  ASTD is an organization for professionals in the field of training and human development.  Cabrera’s interest in leadership development was spurred when she attended the 2013 ASTD International Conference and Exposition and heard a speech by Liz Wiseman, whom she cites in the article.  Cabrera’s article, “Developing Future Leaders: 5 Tips for Considering Shifting Expectations,” highlights the ways in which younger people respond differently to hierarchical models of leadership and focuses on strategies for training a new generation of leaders.

Cabrera notes that Millennials don’t do well in restricted environments.  “Each generation is socially constructed differently,” says Cabrera, and technological advances in particular have affected “the way they think, behave, and interact.”  Millennials become stifled when they are told not to think but to obey.  The danger of adhering to a traditional, top-down managerial approach is that “you muffle everything they have to offer,” resulting in unused talent.
“Horizontal leadership” is the best way to engage Millennials according to Cabrera.  Horizontal leadership is more like coaching a team effort, and one person’s success is everyone’s success.  Accommodating this evolving vision of leadership is important not just for managing young employees but also for training them to be leaders in the future.

Cabrera stresses that horizontal leadership is not just for Millennials; everyone can benefit from a management style that empowers employees.  “It’s so important to me to show the people that I lead that I believe in them and that they are capable,” says Cabrera.  “Believing in somebody is empowering.”

PNA CindyHeroFor 18 intense weeks, 12 Center staff stepped out of their usual roles and teamed up to conduct the Placement Needs Assessment, or PNA, for the South Carolina Department of Social Services. This major study is part of DSS’s Continuous Quality Improvement plan for making changes to the process of placing youth in foster homes. DSS asked the Center to assist in this effort to meet one of the requirements of the Michelle H. v. Haley lawsuit settlement agreement.

The PNA required Center staff to travel across the state, interviewing 90 children in foster care and others connected to these cases. Center staff are currently analyzing the data gathered in these interviews to identify patterns and figure out ways DSS can improve its placement process.

Center Director Cynthia Flynn, who is in charge of the PNA, says the Center’s “deep dive” into how DSS places youth in foster homes showcases the Center’s agility. The Center’s mission and values promote flexibility, which in turn increases the Center’s capacity to serve clients in a variety of ways.  

This agility impresses Bach Pham, a member of the research team at the Center who is participating in the PNA. For him, the Center’s agility stems in part from its cultivation of teamwork. He says, “It was interesting when we gathered on a weekly basis to watch our skill sets come together. Staff from Quality Assurance, Child Welfare, Research, and Leadership teams quickly learned how to work together to produce better content.”

Quality Assurance reviewer Hattie Greene is also participating in the study. For Hattie, the Center displayed excellence in “making efforts to establish rapport” with children in foster care, despite the time constraints. She said she and the team worked hard to avoid making assumptions about what foster parents know about a child’s “underlying issues.”

Through close examination and an honest approach to data, the Center’s work on the PNA demonstrates its commitment to helping its partners reach their goals and improve their outcomes.

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