On my drive to participate in a Quality Service Review in Adams County, Pennsylvania, I was thinking of how fortunate I am to be able to navigate the 44 Pennsylvania counties where JusticeWorks YouthCare has operations. Pennsylvania is such a beautiful and diverse state, from busy cities to the most rural areas where a GPS may not help you.
Adams County, located in the Southern part of Pennsylvania, is home to the beautiful Gettysburg Military National Park. The County is also known as the largest producer of apples in the Commonwealth, and the fourth-largest producer of apples in the country. Before his move to the White House, it was also the home of the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
At the JusticeWorks office on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, our Adams County Program Director, Sean Lazarus, is busy working with Adams County Children and Youth Services (ACCYS) in the implementation of a new program, the JusticeWorks Casework Field Coach program. We have enjoyed a strong partnership with Adams County Children and Youth for the past several years, and together, have collaborated on new initiatives, reduced out-of-home care, and created a safer environment for children, youth, and families in need.
ACCYS leadership were seeking ways for their caseworkers to develop in-depth knowledge of themselves and the families they serve with the dual purpose of delivering professional, quality services, and increasing staff retention. Following the extensive training requirements to be a caseworker, ACCYS wanted to create a system that built a context for the skills and information gained from training. They wanted a program that enhances engagement, self-awareness, real-time feedback, and self-care. The conception of our Casework Field Coach program came to fruition.
The Casework Field Coach proactively collaborates, supports, challenges, and provides intense preparation for new caseworkers going into the field. They provide reflective supervision and ensure that that the ‘transfer of learning’ is occurring.
The Fieldwork Coach has a caseload of ACCYS caseworkers with agency and individual goals. They build a rapport with the caseworkers and assist with their development, both in a group setting and individually. The Fieldwork Coach conducts community visits with the caseworkers, providing coaching, feedback, and ongoing conversations with caseworkers and their supervisors. They also provide monthly group sessions on a variety of topics, including mindfulness, motivational interviewing, self-care, and family engagement. It takes a team approach to build the professional development of the new caseworker.
At the start of the program, caseworkers were hesitant as they were unsure of what to expect. There were several who were questioning their desire to stay in child welfare. However, those feelings quickly dissipated once they began the program. Currently, the ACCYS caseworkers love the program, and several have voiced their eagerness to participate in it. Due to the strengths-based approach of the Field Coach, caseworkers are thriving, with some interviewing for leadership positions. We are looking forward to providing our first set of outcome data in the form of a Summary Performance Report.
Our goal is that the Casework Field Coach program will result in the retention of quality staff, create knowledgeable and talented professionals, and support higher career satisfaction.
Special thanks to the Casework Fieldcoach Implementation Team who were interviewed for this article: Sherri DePasqua (ACCYS Assistant Administrator), Nicole Masafu (ACCYS Intake Supervisor), Sheena Williams (ACCYS Family Support Supervisor), Jessi Coy (ACCYS Program Director) and Erin Goff (JWYC Caseworker Field Coach).