Implementation Challenge – New York Office of Children and Family Services

New York

Believing that effective supervision is a key to improved casework practice and outcomes for children and families, how do we develop a supervisory development system that supports engaged, effective, resilient supervisors across the state?

A 2008 statewide assessment convinced New York’s Office of Children and Family Services (NY-OCFS) that improving caseworker supervision would lead to stronger casework practice and better outcomes for children and families. Due to the vast differences in the county-administered Local Departments of Social Services (LDSS) across the state, supervisory practices varied greatly. In addition, NY-OCFS identified a need for career-long supervisory learning opportunities and peer networks, which supervisors indicated was missing and needed. Several initiatives had laid a firm foundation for improving supervision, including the change to an alternative response to CPS investigation that relied heavily on family-centered practice at its root, as well as a growing awareness of the importance of clear practice models to create focus and accountability in practice.

The Approach

NY-OCFS called its supervisory initiative BASSICS: Building a Sustainable Support System in Child Welfare Supervision and devoted significant time and attention to introducing the project to the 58 counties across the state, encouraging their buy-in and welcoming their input. The project goals were broad and far-reaching, including developing a model of child welfare supervision; conducting a pilot test of the practice model in selected counties to learn the successful strategies and barriers to longer-term implementation; implementing individual and group coaching, as well as skills clinics for pilot site supervisors', convening a statewide representative body to provide guidance and input; and implementing Local Implementation Teams (LITs) in pilot sites in order to address county-level organizational issues that would support or challenge successful supervisory practice.

NCIC’s Role

Provided a specialist in child welfare organizational development to help OCFS and pilot counties improve state county partnerships in a county-administered system.

Provided national level experts on effective supervision to serve as master coaches for supervisory coaching.

Coached OCFS to build their internal capacity to integrate change initiatives into staff day-to-day practice rather than relying continually on contracting with external consultants to implement pilot initiatives around the state.

Broadened OCFS’ perspective to understand the importance of linking supervisory practice to a child welfare practice model and focused on priority child and family outcomes.


An engaged state-county partnership, through a cross-functional Implementation Group which can serve as a prototype for future change initiatives.

NY Model for 21st Century Supervision and Supervisory Competencies, supported by a revised supervisory training curriculum and curricula for supervisory skills clinics.

Local Implementation Teams as a key strategy for implementing organizational change and enhanced supervision around the state. LITs addressed long-standing HR challenges, broke down of siloes among staff, and, where there was strong local leadership-integrated the supervisory initiative with other practice change initiatives.

A cadre of trained local coaches for supervisory development.

Transformation of Regional Office staff role from compliance monitoring to a support resource, involving the Regional Office staff in supervisory training and coaching.

A realization that always being in a pilot-test mode for practice changes inhibits bringing any initiative to scale around the state; OCFS is now building the infrastructure to bring the supervisory development initiative to scale by 2015.

A new understanding that OCFS needs to understand how to use/analyze data more effectively to improve outcomes; OCFS is developing a prototype to “manage by data” at their Home Office and in a specific region with county LDSS partners.

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