Partnerships to Prevent Child Fatalities and Train the Workforce
Amy Wheeler, LCSW, Director of the Child Protection Training Academy
Betsy Goulet, DPA, Center for State Policy & Leadership, CAST Coordinator, CPAA
In late January a southern Illinois Child Death Review team contemplated their recommendations resulting from the discussion of a particularly heartbreaking & completely avoidable infant death. Among their decisions – requesting that the Child Protection Training Academy add a specific risk factor to the environment inside the simulation lab. The team hoped other children might be saved by this small but critical addition to the environmental concerns in the lab for simulation facilitators to discuss during the trainings. Professionals continue to recognize the value and impact of simulation training for improving outcomes in child protection.
Next week, the Child Protection Training Academy will mark five years of operation on the University of Illinois Springfield campus. In February 2016 the first group of newly hired DCFS child protection investigators came to campus to experience the recently launched simulation training model developed in partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The tiny house on the UIS campus was transformed to become a cutting-edge training facility where DCFS investigators could interact with “family members” (Standardized Patient Actors from the SIU-School of Medicine) investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect in a realistic environment. Over the past five years the Academy has trained close to 1,000 new investigators, expanded the model to Chicago in 2019 and is currently working with SIU-C and the School of Medicine to replicate the training model on the Carbondale campus. In 2015 Dr. Goulet worked with DCFS to draft legislation to support the development, implementation and ongoing evaluation of the new training model, partnering with the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to annually evaluate the efficacy and impact of simulation training.
The evaluation team surveyed participants and included their voices in each year’s report:
Over the years new partnerships have been developed as word of the simulation training on the UIS campus reached other states and other organizations. In 2018 the Children’s Bureau highlighted the emerging interest in simulation training, reaching out to Academy leaders to participate in their virtual expo in the summer of 2018. As more states inquired about simulation training in child protection the UIS program served as host to numerous delegations of Child Welfare administrators. Noting increased interest and the need for technical assistance, the Capacity Building Center for States in the Children’s Bureau connected once again, this time to build an entire website about simulation training and highlighting the Academy on the UIS campus, filming the staged scenarios, conducting interviews and featuring the Academy’s research on the “Keeping it Real” website. https://capacity.childwelfare.gov/states/focus-areas/workforce/simulationtraining/
A second partnership will expand simulation training to include multidisciplinary teams from three counties in Illinois. As a partner in Project CHILD, one of five national grant award sites from the Office for Victims of Crime, UIS is collaborating with Cook County Public Health and several other stakeholder agencies to reduce child fatalities:
Using a public health model, the Project CHILD collaborative will address
the problem through parenting education, a home visiting nurse program,
and family referrals. Additional strategies include the use of a simulation
laboratory, regional unit-based multidisciplinary teams, and telehealth technology
to improve the assessment of information gathered during investigations.
Looking to the future, the Child Protection Training Academy envisions the need for new space where other professionals can participate in simulation training, improving critical thinking through the use of Problem-Based Learning. As a result of the pandemic, the Academy has become proficient in a virtual training format and continues to use technology in areas to improve the training. The Academy is excited to think about the potential for improvement in critical thinking of all students, especially those who enter into the workforce to advocate for children. Learning is often limited by thinking ideas are impossible; the Academy dares to achieve the impossible.