Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Academy for Professional Excellence

Program Name

Public Child Welfare Training Academy (PCWTA)

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

The mission of the Academy for Professional Excellence, a project of San Diego State University's School of Social Work, is to provide quality training and organizational support to the health and human services community in the Southern California Region. The region includes San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties. The Public Child Welfare Training Academy (PCWTA) is now a division of the larger Academy for Professional Excellence.

Program Description

The Public Child Welfare Training Academy (PCWTA) was established in 1996 and is one of five child welfare training academies in the state of California. The PCWTA primarily provides core training to line social workers, supervisors, and managers of five counties in the Southern California region. The PCWTA takes pride in the delivery of this comprehensive, competency-based, in-service training to the 3,000 plus public child welfare staff, and child welfare community-based agencies, in the region. The PCWTA responds to the needs of child welfare agencies in the Southern California region as defined by the demographics in the various counties, the demands of the State Program Improvement Plan, and best practice. One of the identified needs was to assist child welfare staff in working with refugee children and families. PCWTA has worked with trainer/consultant Dr. Wanjiru Golly on a class entitled, "Refugee Communities: Social and Practical Implications for Service Providers". This particular class came about when a staff person with PCWTA, Donna Pence, met the trainer/consultant, Dr. Wanjiru Golly, at the monthly Child Abuse Prevention Committee Cultural Competency Work-group meetings. Together with other group members they decided to use , "Diversity Schoolhouse" as a monthly training series designed to help frontline workers within social services, education, and law enforcement improve their communication with, and understanding of, the various ethnic, cultural, religious and other socially diverse groups in the San Diego community. Dr. Wanjiru Golly, who is a psychologist and Kenyan immigrant herself, began talking with the PCWTA staff person about the importance of child welfare staff possessing basic knowledge of the refugee experience and the various refugee communities of San Diego. It was not long before the PCWTA contracted with Dr. Wanjiru Golly to design and teach the proposed refugee course due to her extensive background in working with the local refugee and immigrant communities. She has worked with two non-profit agencies and also is a Board Member of two Community Based Organizations. As a Program Director at a refugee resettlement agency, she came in contact with refugees and immigrants from Africa, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Asia, and Iraq. One of her challenges was helping refugees understand the child welfare system and also working with the child welfare staff to understand the various cultural practices of the refugees. She therefore took every opportunity to present workshops on the cultural practices of the refugees and soon realized the importance of having a formalized training for frontline workers that come into daily contact with this population. For the PCWTA refugee course, Dr. Golly pulled together basic information about refugees and tailored it to the child welfare community. The training will cover the basic definition of a refugee and a historical overview of refugees in the U.S., the journey of refugee families from refugee camps to Southern California, the role of culture in society, and basic skills for culturally competent practice with refugees. In addition, the training will provide participants with an overview of African and Middle Eastern cultures including gender roles, extended family practices, child rearing practices, acculturation, and role changes while in the U.S. The course has been offered as an advanced class for child welfare staff since January 2008.

Resource Materials Used in Program

Groups Served by Program

PCWTA delivers comprehensive, competency-based, in-service training to the 3,000 plus public child welfare staff, and child welfare community based agencies, in the Southern California region.

The refugee population varies among the five counties served. In San Diego County, for example, approximately 21.5% of the population consists of immigrants, including refugees, who speak 68 different languages and have a variety of needs as they integrate into their new environment.

Program Funding

Funding through the Title IV-E Child Welfare Training Program of the Social Security Act.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

The PCWTA program is staffed by individuals who represent the populations served in child welfare. All staff members have a background in child welfare, in collaborative work with child welfare or in training child welfare staff at various levels. The PCWTA has a total of 16 staff:

  • One Program Coordinator who manages staff, trains, and manages overall PCWTA Operations.
  • Four Training and Curriculum Specialists who work directly with trainers on their skills in delivery and on their development as trainers. In addition, the training and curriculum specialists conduct trainings themselves.
  • One Training Specialist and a part-time Assistant Training Specialist who coordinate all the training and related tasks.
  • A Site Director who manages our one fixed training site, evaluates trainers, coaches trainers, and provides training.
  • Two Administrative Support Staff who support training operations.
  • One Program Specialist who supports the various administrative duties.
  • One Training and Evaluation Specialist who manages the program's training evaluation processes.
  • Four Administrative Support Staff who support PCWTA operations in the areas of fiscal management, information technology, and clerical duties.
  • Trainer/consultants as needed.

We have a trainer/consultant, Dr. Wanjiru Golly, who teaches the refugee course she designed. All trainers that contract with the PCWTA have a background in the class topics they teach. Dr. Wanjiru Golly has a PhD in Psychology and years of direct experience working with refugees and immigrants from various parts of the world. Furthermore, as an immigrant herself, she understands the challenges of living in a different country, and her work experience has led her to understand how the various social service agencies operate. She is therefore able to provide a bridge between the community and staff members from the various agencies. Most recently, we have incorporated resource material from BRYCS as part of our Line Worker Core training class, "Child Welfare Practice in a Multi-Cultural Environment" to make new social workers aware of issues for immigrant families.

Program Evaluation

Program Evaluation is a priority for PCWTA and for the Academy as a whole. To conduct the program evaluation, PCWTA uses a multi-level training evaluation methodology to build a chain of evidence to assess the effectiveness of the training. This includes core training, advanced training in the class room and in an eLearning format. This training evaluation methodology is used for the following purposes: to provide feedback for course improvement, training design, and training structure; to identify trainee's knowledge, skills, and values; to provide data for individual accountability; and to identify factors or barriers to achieving the training goals. All PCWTA trainings are routinely evaluated using a satisfaction survey provided to trainees for completion. In addition, each training is also monitored by an on-site coordinator that conducts a formative evaluation of the training day. We moved into the area of embedded evaluations and, as part of a statewide standardized core project, have extensive data from all evaluations conducted throughout the State of California or within our service area in Southern California. This higher level of evaluation aims to measure the transfer of learning from the classroom to the workplace setting. For the standardized core training for line social workers and supervisors, the PCWTA works with the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) at the University of California at Berkeley. These training evaluations are used at all line social worker and supervisor cores that are delivered thoughout the State. These evaluations include delta-plus change evaluation tools, knowledge pre/post tests, and embedded skill evaluations.

The results from the training are reviewed by the trainer and PCWTA's Training & Curriculum Specialists and any reasonable suggestions are incorporated into future deliveries of the training. Additionally, as part of the Trainer Development Policy and Procedure, PCWTA's Training & Curriculum Specialists provide the trainers with support, guidance, and technical assistance to ensure that the trainers' delivery of the training is engaging, clear, and effective.  

Program Outcomes

The PCWTA is committed to providing quality training. The evaluations from trainees inform the trainers and their supervisors of the quality of training provided. These evaluations, along with the observations by PCWTA staff, assist the training and curriculum specialists in their work with trainers around their "Individualized Training Development Plan." The California Department of Social Services outcome requests focus on the number of days of training provided. In the last fiscal year, the PCWTA provided 360 days of training, which exceeded the expectation. For fiscal year 2010-2011, PCWTA's trainers averaged a satisfaction survey score of 4.72; PCWTA's trainings averaged a satisfaction survey score of 4.65. These scores are based on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is the highest rating.

Additional Comments

Program Contact

Academy for Professional Excellence
(619) 594-3917

Leanne Thiltgen, Program Assistant

Dr. Wanjiru Golly

Program Dates

The Public Child Welfare Training Academy began in 1996 and the course on refugees was designed in 2007. This program is still operating as of November 2011.