The Workforce Development Framework

The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute’s (NCWWI) Workforce Development Framework (WDF) can guide agency leaders to improve the health of their child welfare workforce. The WDF describes the key elements of an effective workforce and evidence-informed strategies to develop each component. The WDF’s inner circle describes the process for assessing organizational workforce gaps and implementing workforce strategies while the outer one delineates the components. Leaders can use this framework to develop a comprehensive approach to improving the health of their workforce. Together, the Process and Components compose the Workforce Development Framework (WDF) developed by NCWWI.

Hover your mouse over the various elements of the model below to learn more and utilize NCWWI’s Resource Library to support your efforts. For a full description of the model and examples of component strategies, review the Workforce Development Framework (WDF) Brief .

PHASE 1 – Exploration

During Phase I, agency professionals gather data to understand their workforce needs across the WDF components. The Exploration stage leads to an understanding of current and future workforce needs and a root cause analysis of workforce gaps to identify primary and secondary outcomes.

PHASE 2 – Planning

During Planning, agencies will consider their workforce gaps across the WDF components and select and/or adapt strategies to address them.

PHASE 3 – Implementation

During the Implementation phase, organizations prepare for the upcoming changes and operationalize the planned workforce strategies. In this phase, teams will establish strong CQI strategies to test the effectiveness of implementation and make additional implementation or program adjustments as needed to keep projects moving forward.

PHASE 4 – Evaluation and Sustainability

Guided by the implementation plan, the organization monitors and assesses interventions and implementation supports and makes adjustments as needed. This phase provides the opportunity to assess progress and share lessons learned and findings. As appropriate, the organization will scale successful interventions to other sites or geographic areas.

Implementing Workforce Excellence

At the heart of NCWWI’s diagram, signifies the importance of the process and the organization’s ultimate goal. The Process and Components support this primary goal.

The Process

The model’s inside wheel describes a phased approach for implementing workforce change. The Process involves four phases that together become a continuous quality improvement (CQI) cycle. As an agency moves through each phase, the cycle repeats, starting fresh as conditions warrant and moving toward desired ongoing improvements.

The Components

The workforce development Components describe the integral pieces that must be supported to create a strong and thriving workforce.

Community Engagement

Strong formal and informal partnerships across and within communities, based upon mutual respect and trust, support agency efforts to more effectively recruit candidates who reflect the diversity of the community and the populations served by the agency. A workforce skilled in collaborating with community partners on behalf of children, youth, and families promotes reciprocal positive regard, respect, and supportive interactions. Staff who feel valued for their unique voice and supported within a collaborative community network tend to express an intent to stay with the organization.

Inclusivity/ Racial Equity

A diverse and inclusive workplace strengthens the workforce and positively impacts an organization’s ability to provide effective services and supports. Addressing issues of inclusivity and racial equity occurs as an independent effort as well within all other components. A diverse workforce embraced by inclusivity efforts within the organization supports a series of actions and practices that demonstrate the commitment to improving disparate outcomes for children, youth, and families.

Recruitment & Selection

Finding the right person for the right job at the right time requires a concerted, multi- pronged approach. This component includes a broad range of activities associated with recruitment practices to attract a large, diverse pool of candidates and then selecting the best people using standard and inclusive protocols.

Education & Professional Preparation

Education at universities and colleges generates a pool of workforce candidates with entry-level knowledge, while professional development prepares newly hired staff with the knowledge and skills to do the job and seasoned staff with ongoing skill development and potential for advancement. Determining the educational preparation most relevant for a position also leads to opportunities for partnership with institutions of higher learning. Schools that seek racial equity in educational outcomes for students also contribute to a diverse workforce by successfully recruiting, supporting, preparing, and graduating a diverse student body. the right person for the right job at the right time requires a concerted, multi- pronged approach. This component includes a broad range of activities associated with recruitment practices to attract a large, diverse pool of candidates and then selecting the best people using standard and inclusive protocols.


Quality supervision directly contributes to employee satisfaction and the desire to stay on the job. Supervisors also play a role in how staff experience the organization as a diverse and inclusive workplace. They build clinical skills, offer emotional and social support, provide coaching and feedback, and promote a healthy team culture and climate. Through their actions, supervisors model a commitment to best practice and policies, such as meaningfully engaging families and diligently searching for family and kin or adherence to law, such as the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).


Effective leadership at all levels enables an organization to identify and operationalize the components of workforce development, engaging the whole organization in the work. Leadership at all levels means that staff in positions from the front line to executive management have the capacity and opportunity to lead in various ways. The Leadership Competency Model provides guidance on how to effectively lead in child welfare. 


Child welfare staff often feel burdened by stress and time pressure that result from a heavy workload. Workload goes beyond the number of cases or the people to supervise and looks at the totality of job requirements, including professional development and internal organizational responsibilities. Staff can often feel overwhelmed by their jobs due to the complexities of providing effective child welfare services and supports for children, youth, and families.

Work Conditions & Benefits

Staff at all levels must receive competitive and equitable salary, compensation, and benefits and have the necessary tools and resources in the office and field to feel safe, supported, and valued as professionals and individuals. Staff need a physically and emotionally safe and secure work environment and the resources to do the job. Benefits involve a wide range of informal and formal programs to address staff stress, respond to trauma, and encourage staff well-being.

Practice Supports

Child welfare organizations may employ a variety of practices to engage families and provide services, typically focusing on strength-based approaches. An organization should continually assess the changing needs of the children, youth, and families and implement evidence-based or evidence-informed best practices that respond to these needs. Overarching practice supports provide a way to sustain effective provision of services and supports, regardless of the specific practices an organization implements. Practice supports can buttress whatever practice approaches an agency chooses and will help sustain those practices.

Organizational Culture & Climate

An organization’s culture and climate play a significant role in the ability to attract, recruit, and retain a competent and qualified workforce. Organizational culture explains how the work gets done, while organizational climate provides information about how it feels to work within the organization. A positive organizational climate happens when an individual perceives that they have input in organizational decision-making, problem solving, and processes; have access to information and resources; and have positive views of the agency’s value of diversity. These factors, along with having the resources needed to do the job, can directly influence job satisfaction and intent to stay and impact service delivery and, ultimately, the achievement of the organization’s mission.