Chapter 7 : Section 14

Providing Strength-Based Supervision


Strength-based supervision shall be provided to DCS Specialists by their DCS Program Supervisors. Strength-based supervision includes clinical and administrative supervision. The DCS Program Supervisor provides education and support during clinical and administrative supervision.

A strength-based clinical supervision discussion attended by the DCS Specialist and the DCS Program Supervisor shall occur at key decision points during each investigation, beginning with pre-commencement and continuing through investigation closure.

A strength-based clinical supervision discussion attended by the DCS Specialist and DCS Program Supervisor shall occur at key decision points during each case open for services, and no less than monthly. Clinical supervision discussions may occur quarterly when a child is legally free for adoption and living with the prospective adoptive caregiver.

The DCS Program Supervisor shall review relevant case documentation prior to each clinical supervision discussion to confirm that DCS procedures have been completed and documented, and to identify follow-up activity required, when applicable.

Clinical supervision discussions shall proactively prepare the DCS Specialist for key activities and decisions in the life of the case and focus on ensuring:

  • safety and protection of children;

  • timely achievement of permanency;

  • quality of family engagement;

  • sufficient information collection for comprehensive family assessment;

  • critical thinking and family focused practice as the basis for decisions;

  • consistency and accuracy of policy application;

  • provision of appropriate services to strengthen families, enhance caregiver protective capacity, and support child well-being; and

  • complete and accurate documentation of case activity, key case decisions, and outcomes.

Administrative Supervision discussions shall ensure that casework activities align with federal, state and agency regulations, programs, policies, rules, and procedures as required. DCS Program Supervisors shall seek opportunities for their employees to continuously improve through 1:1 coaching and standard work.


The DCS Program Supervisor has a vital role in achieving the desired outcomes of child safety, permanency, and well-being.

DCS Program Supervisors are responsible for providing strength-based supervision directly to DCS Specialists to develop the skills, self-awareness, and knowledge to effectively perform their responsibilities.

The supervision process of assessment, providing and receiving feedback, and self-reflection parallels and models a strength-based and solution-focused case planning process.

Strength-based clinical supervision discussions may be scheduled more frequently than required by DCS policy when the DCS Specialist is in training status or needs education and support to improve performance.

Clinical Supervision

Clinical Supervision is a formal process of discussion between the DCS Program Supervisor and the DCS Specialist about actions, responses, and decisions of the DCS Specialist during case management. The focus of the clinical supervision discussion is to:

  • guide and coach the DCS Specialist to promote critical thinking;

  • address bias and assumptions that may affect interaction with the family and/or case outcomes;

  • identify strategies for effective family engagement; and

  • analyze the processes, patterns, and dynamics that are occurring within the family.

This discussion helps the DCS Specialist to analyze the information gathered on the family and objectively assess safety, permanency, and well-being.

The DCS Program Supervisor assists the DCS Specialist in discovering the causes and meanings of problems within the family, and effectiveness of interventions. The DCS Program Supervisor and DCS Specialist work together to ensure the family is viewed with empathy and compassion, while clearly defining concerns related to safety, permanency, and well-being. Family strengths and protective capacities are considered, and interventions are identified.

The clinical component of supervision is critical in teaching and assessing how DCS Specialists interact with families, identify pertinent needs, provide intervention, implement services, address barriers, and support parents through the stages of change.

The clinical function of the DCS Program Supervisor is to interpret information at key decision points, review and evaluate client progress, and guide and coach the DCS Specialist.

The DCS Program Supervisor provides case specific guidance by:

  • being available to discuss and guide emergency intervention decisions when a child is known or suspected to be in present or impending danger;

  • conducting a clinical supervision discussion with the DCS Specialist at key decision points in cases where a DCS Report was investigated by the Department, and cases open for in-home or ongoing services;

  • using the Supervision Handbook to guide discussion during clinical supervision discussions;

  • using the Supervision Documentation forms to review the assessment and decisions in the case before approving investigation closure;

  • providing more frequent supervisory consultation when a child is at risk of an unplanned caregiver change or a child is placed in a residential treatment center or psychiatric hospital; and

  • reviewing case record documentation for thoroughness and accuracy.

The DCS Specialist’s role and responsibilities during clinical supervision discussions are to:

  • identify practice and professional topics for discussion;

  • present work and be prepared to discuss the family;

  • engage in the supervisory process;

  • receive information and another perspective concerning the progress of the family and the DCS Specialists’ involvement in the change process;

  • plan and utilize professional resources;

  • apply learning from supervision; and

  • give feedback to self and supervisor.

Clinical Supervision Discussion Timeframes


The DCS Program Supervisor shall conduct Clinical Supervision discussions with the DCS Specialist during key decision points of the investigation as follows:

  • Pre-Commencement: Discussion to determine the plan for initial contact with the family and conducting the assessment. The DCS Specialist and Program Supervisor discussion shall occur within 24 hours of the report assignment to the specialist.

  • Present Danger: Discussion to determine if any child in the home of the alleged maltreatment is in present danger; to include a responsible adult assessment and gathering sufficient information. The discussion shall occur while the Specialist is in the field during the initial present danger assessment.

    • Present Danger Plan: Discussion to determine the plan of action and DCS oversight. The discussion shall occur while the Specialist is in the field during the initial present danger assessment.

    • Identifying Responsible Adults: Discussion to determine if there are responsible adults available and their ability to carry out the required safety actions.

  • Sufficient Information: Discussion to determine whether additional information is needed in the six domains in order to make an impending danger determination, including an assessment of the caregivers’ protective capacities. This discussion shall occur as often as needed to gather all sufficient information to make an impending danger determination.

  • Impending Danger: Discussion to determine if any child in the home of the alleged maltreatment is in impending danger. The discussion shall occur following completion of the FFA - Investigation.

    • In-Home safety analysis: Discussion to determine the possibility of having a sufficient, feasible, and sustainable in-home Safety Plan. The discussion shall occur immediately following determination that Impending Danger exists and it is determined that there is an unsafe child.

    • Identifying Responsible Adults: Discussion to determine if there are responsible adults available and their ability to carry out the required safety actions.

    • Safety Plan: Discussion to determine the plan and DCS oversight. This discussion shall occur before the Safety Plan development and prior to the Safety Plan Team Decision Making meeting. This discussion may also occur after the DCS Specialist meets with the family and potential responsible adults to address impending dangers, and safety plan options and actions.

    • Level of Department Intervention: Discussion to develop an ongoing plan for the assessment process to include:

      • continued family engagement and how the next steps will be communicated to the family;

      • any anticipated barriers and/or worker safety concerns;

      • any assumptions made and how these may lead to bias;

      • any case specific resources that may be needed for the assessment; and

      • assessment findings and whether Department and/or court oversight is needed.

This shall occur within 45-60 days of the Report receipt by the Hotline and following the DCS Specialist completing the FFA Assessment to assess Caregiver Protective Capacities and Protective Factors.

In-Home & Out-of-Home Case Management Supervision

The DCS Program Supervisor shall conduct Clinical Supervision discussions with the assigned DCS Specialist as follows:

  • Transfer Dialogue: Discussion to provide the required information needed to the newly assigned staff. The receiving DCS Program Supervisor will conduct a transfer dialogue, either in person or by phone, with the sending DCS Program Supervisor. The transfer dialogue shall occur within one day for in-home and within two days for out-of-home of the unit assignment. Each DCS Program Supervisor shall invite identified specialists.

  • Preparation & Introduction: Discussion to determine the plan for the first engagement and introduction with the family. Preparation and introduction discussion shall occur within one day of unit assignment for in-home and within two days for out-of-home.

  • Exploration: Discussion to determine the plan for collaborating with the family to determine required changes. The exploration discussion shall occur before the case planning discussion.

  • Case Planning: Discussion to determine the plan for engaging the family in the case planning process, and the behavioral changes needed to manage the danger. The case planning discussion shall occur before the initial case plan staffing and not more than 60 days from unit assignment.

  • Progress Update Supervision: Discussion to determine any progress made and the steps required to achieve the case plan and permanency goals. The progress update discussion shall occur monthly.

  • Case Closure and Aftercare Planning: To determine a plan that continues to strengthen the family and reduce risk of future abuse or neglect.

Administrative Supervision

Administrative Supervision focuses on the ability to set and maintain expectations using tiered connectivity and accountability through leadership development including a coaching approach. The administrative function of the DCS Program Supervisor is to establish accountability and communicate standards of performance for the DCS Specialist by:

  • seeking opportunities to continue to learn and grow in their profession;

  • understanding that problems exist and sometimes targets get missed;

  • assessing performance data, manage processes, and maintain Standard Work regularly;

  • analyzing performance measures routinely as a means to ensure performance standards and desired outcomes are met;

  • validating standardized processes are followed;

  • responding to problems with genuine curiosity and intentionality by including their teams in defining the problem; and

  • ensuring administrative updates are provided in a timely manner.

Huddle Board Standard Work

Huddle Board discussions, once established, should be facilitated on a team rotation basis as determined by the board owner. The Huddle Board discussion shall include:

  • Deliverables:

    • reviewing the Huddle Board Countermeasure Sheet and status updates of the previous actions taken;

    • reviewing performance metrics and results against the target condition in the following order: people, quality, service level, cost, and process adherence;

    • identifying undesirable conditions requiring team action;

    • addressing any process adherence issues requiring team attention; and

  • Problem Solving: brainstorming and problem solving issues facing the team.

Gemba Walk

The goal of the Administration Supervision Gemba Walk is to learn how the Site/Area Owner uses and adheres to DCS Management System Elements and to provide coaching that will help the owner increase proficiency. The Reviewer and Owner align on the tools, their use, and learning during and after the walk. Reviewers provide written feedback to the Owner as part of their coaching to increase proficiency. The elements of the Gemba Walk shall include:

  • Visual Performance Management: walk the huddle board with the owner to look for Standard Work and updated metrics; confirm the deliverables on the standard work are met during the Huddle Board meetings and that the team is engaged.

  • Problem Solving: review the countermeasure sheets with the Owner and A2 problem solving tools; identify problems and confirm problems found are addressed with actions; validate that actions are completed and that outcomes are impacted.

  • Leader Behaviors and Standard Work (LSW): review the LSW tool with the Owner to assess use; review 1:1 documents or observe employee engagement to validate the Owner coaches their team and is maintaining a safe environment.

  • Visual Process Adherence and Standard Work (SW): walk a process and ask the Owner to explain how adherence is ensured; see if SW deliverable are met; engage with team members that use the process to validate adherence.

Although this tool has multiple elements, not all elements need to be observed in one Gemba Walk as it may cause information overload and may hinder coaching more than help.

Educational Supervision

The educational function of the DCS Program Supervisor is to address the knowledge, attitude, and skills required to perform the DCS Specialist functions effectively. Educational supervision is focused, reflective, and vital to reinforce what is covered in formal training and provide guidance to DCS Specialists in gathering assessment information, developing case plans, and interpreting ongoing assessment information at key decision points.

The DCS Program Supervisor provides education during clinical and administrative supervision by:

  • providing information on the Department’s child welfare policies, procedures, and practice guidelines;

  • providing structured and goal oriented interactions to help DCS Specialists realize their own potential to think critically, discover solutions, take action to solve problems, and obtain proficiency through self-directed and individualized learning;

  • creating experiences and opportunities that support and develop DCS Specialists to use family-engagement practices in their work;

  • modeling behaviors and communication for DCS Specialists to use when working with families; and

  • arranging refresher, advanced, or other formal training to promote employee professional development.

Supportive Supervision

The supportive function of the DCS Program Supervisor involves improving morale and job satisfaction by supporting DCS Specialists in working through challenges while giving a sense of worth as professionals, a sense of belonging in the agency, and a sense of security in their performance. It involves helping staff to manage stress associated with child welfare work through development of a respectful supportive DCS Program Supervisor-DCS Specialist relationship. The goal is to promote self-awareness, development, and growth within the context of the professional environment.

The DCS Program Supervisor provides support during clinical and administrative supervision by:

  • positively interpreting and influencing the organizational culture within the unit;

  • fostering a work environment that promotes self-motivation, develops critical decision making skills, and enhances work performance;

  • enhancing DCS Specialist job satisfaction including building and maintaining morale; and

  • preventing and addressing work-related stress, secondary trauma, and burnout.

Group Supervision

Group supervision is one format of supervision involving case discussions with a set of peers led by a supervisor. Dialog-driven group supervision can challenge assumptions as team members have the opportunity to observe responses to cases that may vary from their own. Finally, group supervision can increase the range of creative solutions generated when multiple viewpoints come together to problem solve complex situations seen in child welfare.

Group supervision can be used for building self-awareness and education. It may be used to compliment clinical supervision and can occur through various methods, such as Supervision Circles.

Supervision Circles

Supervision Circles provide an avenue to transfer learning to field practice. During Supervision Circles, managers and supervisors model critical thinking, strengths-based and family-centered supervision, and integration of the FFA and case planning model into supervisory decision-making. A Supervision Circle consists of a group of DCS Program Supervisors and their Program Manager, who holds clinical case discussions and discusses new policies, practice guidelines, resources, local practice or systemic issues, progress, and successes.

Role of the Program Manager (PM) in Supporting Supervisors

Program Managers provide continual oversight, quality improvement, and support of the clinical supervision processes. PMs will conduct a Gemba Walk on their clinical supervision at least once a month. The PM shall complete a case record review of three cases for each directly reporting DCS Program Supervisor on a monthly basis to monitor:

  • the quality of supervisory case reviews;

  • the quality of assessments and intervention being implemented; and

  • frequency and quality of clinical supervision discussions with DCS Specialists.

The PM and DCS Program Supervisor shall agree on one or two specific actions the supervisor will take to increase proficiency based on observations and conversation held during the Gemba Walk. Case reviews and data analysis are also useful in the process of continuous quality improvement.


The DCS Program Supervisor will:

  • complete all applicable Supervisor Documentation forms;

  • complete all applicable supervisory approvals;

  • document the supervisory case progress review meetings;

  • document the administrative case record review of investigation cases;

  • document the closure review of investigation cases; and

  • cases open for ongoing services.

Document the specific actions and target dates to increase proficiency on the unit countermeasures sheet.

Document that the clinical supervision discussion was held using the appropriate Supervision Documentation form, and upload the form as a document in Guardian.

The receiving DCS Program Supervisor shall document all transfer dialogue communications using the Supervision note type.

Effective Date: April 22, 2022
Revision History: November 30, 2012, February 1, 2021, August 9, 2021