As part of a massive statewide transformation, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) is fundamentally changing the way it works with families involved in the child welfare system. The Governor's commitment to Child Protection will result in hundreds of new Family Case Managers (FCMs) hired in Indiana. These new workers will allow all DCS FCMs to return to the kind of social work that drew many of our workers to the field in the first place. Thus, "practice reform" really means a renewed commitment to social work practice that makes the FCM a critical support to the child and family.
DCS will build trust-based relationships with families and partners by exhibiting empathy, professionalism, genuineness and respect. Importantly, Indiana has identified five essential practice skills necessary to effectively implement our vision, mission and values. These skills are:
- Engaging. The skill of effectively establishing a relationship with children, parents, and essential individuals for the purpose of sustaining the work that is to be accomplished together.
- Teaming. The skill of assembling a group, that includes parents and their support systems, to work with children and families, so that positive results can be achieved.
- Assessing. The skill of determining and documenting why a child is under DCS care and what services may be needed to achieve safety, permanence, and well-being for the child.
- Planning. The skill necessary to tailor the planning process uniquely to each child and family is crucial. This includes the design of incremental steps that move children and families from where they are to a better level of functioning. Service planning requires the planning cycle of assessing circumstances and resources, making decisions on directions to take, evaluating the effectiveness of the plan, reworking the plan as needed, celebrating successes, and facing consequences in response to lack of improvement.
- Intervening. The skill to intercede with actions that will decrease risk, provide for safety, promote permanence, and establish well-being. These skills continue to be gathered throughout the life of the professional child welfare worker and may range from finding housing to changing a parent's pattern of thinking about their child.
As our new practice unfolds, we will need a different array of services for families, new policies to guide our work, and continuous training and quality improvement to improve our skills.