Leadership Academy Overview

Leaders guide and empower child welfare programs 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 programs. These behaviors are articulated in a competency model of the knowledge and skills that collectively represent a leader’s efforts. The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute’s (NCWWI) Leadership Competency Framework (the Framework) provides a model to develop, guide, and evaluate leadership at all levels within a child welfare program.

Leadership Academy Structure

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

      • Online module designed for supervisors, managers, and directors 
      • 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 will: 
 

      • Engage in various scenarios and situation-based activities designed to facilitate critical thinking  
      • Be encouraged to collaborate and promote team work  
      • Foster a safe holding environment  

Preparation Tools

Prior to participation in the Leadership Academy, learners will complete training preparation activities, including viewing three online foundation modules (Foundations of Leadership and Workforce Development Parts I and II), exploration of a Change Project aligned with agency workforce priorities, and engaging in two or three pre-training readiness coaching sessions. Additionally, at the discretion of the program, learners may be required to complete the following optional activities: 

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 Coach Federation (ICF) to help Leadership Academy participants engage in transfer of learning activities, ongoing leadership skill development, and guidance to support successful integration of their Change Projects. 

The coaching program consists of three coaching phases: Pre-training Readiness Coaching, Leadership Academy Coaching, and Post-Academy Coaching.   Coaches provide two to three training readiness sessions prior to the Academy; monthly, 45- 60-minute leadership development coaching sessions during the Academy delivery, in addition to 4-6 monthly coaching sessions at the completion of the modularized training delivery. 

Summary

Participation in the Leadership Academy provides supervisors, managers, and directors with an opportunity to become the leaders that they strive to be.  Child welfare leaders require special expertise and must learn to navigate through the “whitewater” and anticipate what is coming up next. Program leaders must recognize the importance of communicating a vision, charting a course for ongoing organizational development, and supporting a workforce training to improve outcomes. To that end, participation in the Leadership Academy grants leaders with the opportunity 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 and offers lessons learned and recommendations from Academy participants and key stakeholders to help promote Academy sustainability and future Academy implementation efforts.