Lessons Learned: Tips for Effective Linkages Training

1. Make learning a joint priority: Training must be a commitment by both programs and the expectation that staff from both programs attend trainings should start from the onset of developing a Linkages practice. When training is attended by only one of the program’s staff this can lead to feelings that Linkages is not important to the other program, so why should we bother. It is essential that leadership hold staff accountable for attending trainings developed to increase knowledge between the two program staffs, to build working relationships and to promote collaboration.

2. Start with the basics: Training should be sequenced, beginning with a basic overview and orientation of “who we are” and proceeding through more advanced topics. Provide basics about what the roles and responsibilities are for all of the different workers involved in Linkages so that each can begin to see how their individual programs can support families being served. Follow this with “nuts and bolts” training related to the type of Linkages program being implemented. Continue the knowledge and skill building with advanced topics related to special populations or service needs.

3. Model collaboration: Orientation and training on collaboration should be co-trained by experts from the Child Welfare Program and from the CalWORKs program. This reinforces the value of coordinated services and helps model collaboration from the start.

4. Address “What’s in it for me?”: Training should help workers from both CalWORKs and CWS see the value of collaboration from their unique points of view. When workers can understand more fully that collaboration makes sharing information, leveraging resources, and accessing services easier; helps families meet their goals more efficiently; and supports each program to achieve their outcomes more effectively, then they come away realizing that Linkages really does “just make sense”.

5. Make training interactive: Use scenarios, role playing and other experiential exercises to promote a better understanding of how working together can better accomplish economic sufficiently and child safety goals. The more realistic the interactions between CalWORKs and CWS staff are during training sessions, the more likely caseworkers, supervisors and managers will collaborate within each other back on the job.

6. Tell the story: Use success stories to put a human face on the work that both CalWORKs and CWS does. Statistics are great, but seeing and hearing families’ stories about how they were able to better navigate the two complex systems as a result of the Linkages collaboration makes the case more clearly.

7. Leverage existing curriculum: Use existing training modules developed by the Regional Training Academies and other County Staff Development Departments, but don’t be afraid to adapt it to address your particular county organizational environment, culture and needs.

8. Create time to connect: Include informal social time during training sessions, especially orientation, recognizing that personal relationship are one motivation for collaboration.

9. Make Linkages a way of doing business: In California, county child welfare programs are required by the state to develop an annual training plan. Use this planning process to integrate Linkages into your overall training agenda. In addition, include Linkages training as part of core curriculum for new hires.

10. Train, train, and retrain: Due to the dynamics of both professions, staff are constantly changing positions, promoting or leaving the agencies. Be sure to have a mechanism in place to repeat any training modules, even the basic orientation, and do not assume that since you have done it once it doesn’t need to be repeated.