A video series shot at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Child Protection Training Academy is serving as a national simulation training model for preparing child welfare workers and students for working with at-risk children and families.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for States, part of the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative and a service of the Children’s Bureau, filmed the Academy’s simulation scenarios and conducted interviews at the UIS residential simulation lab and mock courtroom before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
The videos and other resources on the new “Keeping it Real” website will be used by child welfare agencies throughout the United States to prepare child welfare workers and students for difficult interactions with families, as they investigate cases of suspected child abuse. The Center for States hopes the videos will help agencies learn about the benefits, costs and considerations for implementing similar training programs in their states.
“Over the years several state child welfare professionals have visited campus to better understand how simulation training improves transfer of learning and critical decision-making in the field,” said Betsy Goulet, principal investigator of the of the UIS Child Protection Training Academy. “The new ‘Keeping it Real’ website consolidates the research, tools and videos other programs across the country need to begin to replicate the model for their workforce.”
The videos cover an investigator’s first knock on the door of a family’s home, an interview with medical personnel on how to discuss physical evidence in a case, a presentation of findings in family court, an overview of simulation training and a debrief from those who participated in simulation training. All of the videos can be found on the Center for States' website.
Since its founding in 2016, the UIS Child Protection Training Academy in Springfield, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), has provided simulation training for nearly 800 new child protection investigators. The UIS training module was expanded to Chicago in partnership with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and to Carbondale this spring in partnership with Southern Illinois University.
“The Department of Children and Families Services’ implementation and expanded use of simulated learning is a major step forward in recognizing that knowledge-based training alone is not enough” said Illinois DCFS Acting Director Marc D. Smith. “The model designed by UIS has played a key role in the professional development of our staff and this video series is a great resource for other agencies across the country looking to improve the overall quality of investigations and better serve the most vulnerable.”