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

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

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.

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)

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.”



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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

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.


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. 

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.”

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.  

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.

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.

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.”

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