Leadership Academy Overview

Leaders guide and empower child welfare agencies to achieve their mission of keeping children safe, steering families to permanency, and improving children’s well-being. “Leadership” happens when leaders engage in behaviors that collectively inspire, motivate, and direct the work of child welfare. These behaviors are articulated in the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute’s (NCWWI) Leadership Competency Framework (Framework), which is a competency model of the knowledge and skills that collectively represent a leader’s approach. The Framework provides a model to develop, guide, and evaluate leadership at all levels within a child welfare agency.


Leadership Academy Structure

The Leadership Academy supports leaders in developing the skills to foster an equitable and positive organizational climate and facilitate sustainable change. Academy participants experience online, and in-person or virtual learning opportunities accompanied by leadership development coaching. The curriculum provides explanations of concepts and application opportunities that reinforce the leadership fundamentals, along with the four quadrants of the Framework. Each module includes:

  • An online module designed for supervisors, managers, and directors 
  • A one day(6-hour) synchronous classroom training delivered in person or virtually to role-specific cohorts of 10-25 supervisors, managers, and directors 

The Leadership Academy curriculum uses a problem-based, flipped classroom learning format. Leadership Academy participants: 

  • Engage in various scenarios and situation-based activities designed to facilitate critical thinking 
  • Are encouraged to collaborate and promote teamwork 
  • Foster a safe learning environment 

Leadership Academy Preparation Tools

Prior to participating in the Leadership Academy, learners complete training preparation activities, including viewing three online foundation modules (Foundations of Leadership and Workforce Development Parts I and II), exploring a change project aligned with agency workforce priorities, and engaging in two or three pre-training Readiness Coaching sessions. Additionally, learners may be required to complete the following optional activities: 

Leadership Academy Coaching Program

Throughout their training experience, Leadership Academy participants receive developmental coaching support from a leadership coach. The Leadership Academy Coaching Program integrates best-practice coaching competencies approved by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) to help Leadership Academy participants engage in transfer of learning activities, ongoing leadership skill development, and guidance to support the successful integration of their change projects. 

The coaching program consists of three coaching phases: pre-training Readiness CoachingLeadership Academy Coaching, and Post-Academy Coaching. Coaches provide:

  • 2 to 3 training readiness sessions prior to the Academy
  • Monthly, 45- 60-minute leadership development coaching sessions during the Academy delivery
  • 4 to 6 monthly coaching sessions after the completion of the training delivery


The Leadership Academy gives supervisors, managers, and directors the opportunity to become the leaders that they strive to be. Child welfare leaders require special expertise and must learn to navigate through the “whitewater” work environment and anticipate what is coming next. Agency leaders must recognize the importance of communicating a vision, charting a course for ongoing organizational development, and supporting workforce training to improve outcomes. Participation in the Leadership Academy allows leaders to develop skills to manage both aspects of leadership ‒ vision and reality ‒ and practice the resiliency to stand in the tension between the two. 

This guide builds on NCWWI’s experience implementing the Leadership Academy in multiple public child welfare agencies. The NCWWI Leadership Academy Cross-Site Final Evaluation Report summarizes evaluation results from four public child welfare agencies that implemented the Academy and offers lessons learned and recommendations from Academy participants and key stakeholders to help promote Academy sustainability and future Academy implementation efforts. This report states that overall, participants were satisfied with the Academy, demonstrated significant knowledge gains, felt that key factors that support learning transfer were in place, and had significant increases in leadership behaviors.