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Working with child welfare can be stressful -- which is why the field sometimes has up to a 90 percent turnover rate -- but it's also rewarding to know you're making a difference in children's lives. Social work supervisors don't spend as much time in the field as their staff members do, but they must understand the needs of their employees and the community and be able to express that understanding in a job interview.
Managing and training staff are key components of a social work supervisory position. Candidates should prepare to answer questions about their previous staff management experience and how they divide the high caseload among staff fairly. Questions might include how the candidate keeps staff motivated and how to ensure the employees -- new and old -- are trained sufficiently. Interviewers should ask about the candidate's employee review process and disciplinary practices. With children's lives often on the line, supervisors must ensure that staff members follow proper procedures at all times.
Although supervisors might not have as much interaction with the families as their staff, they must still remain familiar with ongoing cases. Interviewers might ask how a candidate tracks and reports on cases as well as his comfort level when testifying in court about cases under his purview. Candidates should prepare for questions about when they decide to get personally involved in cases and at what stage, such as intake or assessment. Questions also might include whether the candidate has ever solicited funding for the child welfare department or how he works collaboratively with other agencies to ensure children receive necessary additional services, such as therapy.
Social work supervisors often complete or monitor reports sent to the court, and questions should cover how the candidate handles those reports to ensure they're submitted on time and complete. Questions might also include what criteria the candidate uses when making recommendations to the court regarding a child's welfare, such as whether the child should be returned to her birth parents after being removed for suspected abuse. Interviewers could ask about the candidate's comfort level preparing reports and presenting them to small and large groups.
Reaching out to the community is essential to the success of a child welfare department. Supervisors must educate the community about danger signs as well as the need for financial and volunteer support, and interviewers should ask candidates about their previous outreach experience and successes. Candidates should prepare to answer questions about how they've recruited foster parents and mentors, as well as how they engage community partners.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.
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