Professional supervision

This advice provides an overview of the professional supervision requirements for all child protection staff.

Introduction

Supervision of child protection practitioners promotes effective service provision to vulnerable children and their families by:

  • providing for critical reflection and professional development in child protection practice
  • strengthening workforce adherence to child protection policy and promoting use of the child protection manual to guide and clarify legal and procedural practice responsibilities
  • clarifying expectations and responsibilities for supervisors and child protection practitioners
  • contributing to staff wellbeing and workforce stability – supervision is recognised as a key element of staff satisfaction and therefore critical to a stable workforce.

See Divisional child protection workload management monitoring and review panels, which outlines:

  • principles of allocating safe and effective workloads
  • safety in the workplace
  • divisional workload management monitoring and review panels.

In the broader context, related areas include occupational health and safety, the Code of Conduct and performance management and relevant industrial agreements.

Types of supervision in child protection

Scheduled or formal supervision: regular, planned, one-to-one, uninterrupted and held in a private setting between the supervisor and supervisee. People management tasks such as planning and allocating work and managing and recognising performance occurs. Casework discussion and planning occurs.

Unscheduled supervision: includes consultations on case decision making, delegation, staff and caseload management, professional development, meeting support needs, service and resource allocation and policy clarification. The nature of child protection practice means many complex issues are discussed in a supervisory relationship as they arise because their resolution cannot wait until scheduled supervision sessions.

Group supervision: structured sessions to address one or more of the supervision functions. This includes reflective practice sessions facilitated by practice leaders or principal practitioners. Team meetings do not automatically constitute group supervision, but they can be used in part, or in full, as group supervision if adequately planned and if this intention is known to team members.

Live supervision: direct supervision of case practice provided by a more senior practitioner observing the supervisee in practice or accompanying the supervisee while engaging with children, families or other professionals. This may include the more senior practitioner role-modeling, mentoring, coaching and promoting self-reflection.

Live supervision is an essential component of supervision.

Supervision functions

Managerial: to promote competent, professional and accountable child protection practice and monitor workloads.

Developmental: to establish a collaborative and reflective approach for learning and provide a focus on continuing professional development and the provision of regular performance feedback between supervisor and supervisee, pursuant to a developmental plan established through the PPD process.

Supportive: to create a safe context for supervisees to talk about the successes, rewards, challenges, uncertainties and the emotional impacts of child protection work and to monitor supervisee safety and wellbeing.

Mediative: to engage the individual with the organisation and mediate between supervisees, the department and others. The mediative function of supervision is the most influential process through which individual supervisees perceive and relate to the department and child protection. It also provides important upward feedback about the frontline experience.

Supervision tools

Supervision tools assist supervisors and practitioners to review and monitor allocated cases and other aspects of the child protection role and have been developed to improve the quality, consistency and monitoring of supervision and work allocation.

Supervision monitoring and compliance

Divisional Directors, Child Protection (or executive officer equivalent) are responsible for organising quarterly supervision monitoring and data collection processes and the provision of this information to central office.

Compliance is considered to have been achieved if the rate of supervision is in accordance with the requirement, including where staff have missed a maximum of one scheduled session within the quarter. Divisions need to record scheduled sessions and unscheduled, live and group supervision to provide:

  • evidence of compliance with the supervision requirements (the supervision tools are one source of evidence)
  • a quarterly report of supervision compliance for classifications CPP 3 and 4 to the Performance, Regulation and Reporting Branch (50 Lonsdale Street).

Divisions receive reports back regarding their supervision compliance rate. This data can then be used to address local quality and compliance issues and to identify work groups which may require additional support to meet supervision requirements.

Classification

Requirement

Case support worker
CPP2

Case practice support workers will receive two hours supervision a month.

These two hours must include one hour of scheduled supervision. The balance of supervision to make up the two hours per month can comprise:

  • additional scheduled supervision
  • unscheduled supervision
  • group supervision
  • live supervision.

Child protection practitioner
CPP3
Beginning practitioners

Beginning (less than three months experience) practitioners will receive the equivalent of three hours supervision a fortnight.

These three hours must include two hours of scheduled supervision a fortnight. The balance of supervision to make up the three hours can comprise:

  • additional scheduled supervision
  • unscheduled supervision
  • group supervision
  • live supervision.

During the weeks when beginning practitioners are attending the Beginning Practice clinics the supervision requirement will revert to two hours of supervision per fortnight including one hour of scheduled supervision.

Child protection practitioner
CPP 3 - 5

Practitioners with case management responsibilities and managers supervising staff and cases will receive the equivalent of two hours supervision a fortnight.

These two hours must include one hour of scheduled supervision a fortnight. The balance of supervision to make up the two hours can comprise:

  • additional scheduled supervision
  • unscheduled supervision
  • group supervision
  • live supervision.

Child protection court officer
CPP 5

Court officers will receive two hours supervision a month.

These two hours must include one hour of scheduled supervision. The balance of supervision to make up the two hours per month can comprise:

  • additional scheduled supervision
  • unscheduled supervision.

Principal practitioner
CPP 6

Principal practitioners will receive one hour of scheduled supervision a fortnight with their line manager.

Divisional principal practitioners will also receive supervision with a statewide principal practitioner.

Area manager
Child protection operations manager
CPP 6.1 and 6.2

Managers at the CPP 6 level will receive one hour of scheduled supervision a month with their line manager.

Central After Hours Service (CAHS) staff
CPP 3 - 5

Includes:

After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service;

After Hours Child Protection Placement Service; and

Streetwork Outreach Service.

Central after hours service staff will receive six hours of supervision per roster cycle (six weeks).

These six hours must include a one hour of scheduled supervision. The balance of supervision to make up the six hours per roster cycle can comprise:

  • additional scheduled supervision
  • unscheduled supervision
  • group supervision
  • live supervision.

Student

Students will receive the equivalent of two hours supervision a fortnight.

These two hours must include one hour of scheduled supervision a fortnight. The balance of supervision to make up the two hours can comprise:

  • additional scheduled supervision
  • unscheduled supervision
  • group supervision
  • live supervision.

Part-time or casual staff

The frequency of supervision for part-time and casual staff is the same as for full-time staff, but the duration is determined on a pro-rata basis.

Frequency and duration of supervision

The impact on individuals of the complex and challenging nature of child protection work, coupled with the importance of decision making and authority necessitates that close attention occur to the supervisees’ need for regular supervision. Supervision should be matched to the individual needs of the supervisee. Supervisees with particularly complex cases will generally require more supervision.

Re-scheduling sessions

Supervisors and supervisees are expected to make every effort to ensure scheduled supervision sessions occur. Rescheduled supervision sessions need to occur within one week of the previously scheduled session.

If a supervisor cannot undertake supervision (for example because of illness), line management becomes responsible for organising supervision (scheduled and unscheduled) with an alternative supervisor.

Staff absence

If a supervisee is absent, within the fortnightly period, the minimum frequency and duration of supervision is reduced on a pro rata basis.

Considerations for good practice

Who provides supervision?

In most cases, a supervisee’s line manager will provide supervision. It can be negotiated for another manager to provide:

  • aspects of supervision, such as case decision making in the supervisor’s absence
  • scheduled, unscheduled, live and group supervision as required.

Supervisor capability

Supervisors are selected on the basis they are able to, or have the potential to deliver the department’s leadership and people management capabilities.

Supervisors must undertake a leadership professional development program approved by the Centre for Learning and Development specifically relating to supervision in child protection, within four months of being appointed to a supervisory position, or as soon as a place in the program can be provided.

Supervisors without experience within Victorian child protection will need to consult with the Centre for Learning and Development regarding the most appropriate professional development options. This needs to occur at the time of the supervisor’s commencement in the position.

Supervision is a shared responsibility

Supervision is a process where supervisors and supervisees collaborate to:

  • improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families using the best interests case practice model
  • meet departmental, divisional and program objectives
  • enhance learning and supervisee well-being
  • regularly engage in reflective practice.

Both parties to a supervisory relationship have responsibility for effectively using the supervision process and for seeking solutions if it's not working. Each party will bring strengths to the relationship and will add value to the supervision process. Inevitably supervisors will not meet all the professional needs of all those they supervise. Where one party feels their needs are not being fully met, respectful communication is likely to assist with finding a way to address this.

Supervision responsibilities

Supervisors are responsible for providing regular, high quality and organised supervision to those they supervise in accordance with these requirements. Providing supervision is a core task for supervisors and needs to be prioritised.

Performance management for child protection case practice support workers, practitioners and managers will be provided in accordance with departmental policies and procedures.

Supervisor responsibility

  • initiating and committing to supervision and the supervisory relationship
  • modelling behaviour integral to effective people management and departmental values
  • providing an outlet for emotional and psychological stresses
  • facilitating reflective practice using questions that promote thoughtfulness, problem solving, professional growth and critical analysis
  • considering, reviewing and respectfully challenging supervisee assumptions, professional judgment and practice
  • overseeing progress towards reaching case-plan goals
  • supporting and promoting use of the child protection manual to guide practice and support compliance with procedural requirements
  • improving practice in accordance with the best interest case practice model and the specialist practice resources
  • exploring supervisee professional development needs and facilitating attendance at professional development programs
  • initiating discussions regarding optimal and safe case / work loads so the supervisee can provide an effective service to families and /or staff, taking into consideration factors relating to cases / work and factors relating to the supervisee. (An optimal and safe workload is one that matches the work that has the greatest urgency with the number, type and mix of work and other duties, experience and supervisee competence)
  • aligning the content of supervision with the supervisee’s supervision agreement and professional performance plan
  • being aware of, and managing in accordance with, departmental human resource policies
  • assisting the supervisee to understand the relevant performance standards and capabilities for their position and how these relate in practice to the duties of their job
  • providing regular feedback, including comments regarding their strengths, observable practice and conduct
  • inviting feedback from the supervisee
  • discussing the annual PPD review process and conducting the annual review with the supervisee.
  • managing supervisee underperformance in accordance with departmental policies
  • documenting key outcomes arising from supervision discussions or sessions
  • reviewing case notes, assessments, reports and electronic files.

Note: the time required to review case notes, assessments, reports and electronic files is not included in the time allocated for supervision.

Supervisee responsibilities

  • committing to supervision and the supervisory relationship
  • planning with their supervisor, the supervision session and identifying learning areas or case practice issues to discuss
  • identifying their learning needs and actively pursuing professional development opportunities
  • prioritising self-care, with support from their supervisor
  • raising any workload issues that impact on their ability to provide an effective service to families and/or that might impact on their physical or psychological safety. If this does not remedy the issue practitioners and managers can request a workload review
  • being open to alternative points of view, discussing case practice and reflecting
  • being honest with their supervisor about practice and team issues and the supervisory relationship
  • implementing agreed plans
  • understanding the capabilities and performance standards relevant to their position and how these relate to the duties of their position
  • clarifying the supervisor’s expectations of their work
  • keeping their supervisor informed about their work and seeking feedback on their strengths, learning areas and work performance
  • keeping supervision notes.

Relationship difficulties

As with any relationship, disagreements, conflict and difficulties can, and do occur within the supervisory relationship. Normally, these issues can be resolved between individuals however in other situations the involvement of line management may be required.

Supervision agreements

Supervisors and supervisees are expected to discuss their expectations and responsibilities early, clarifying how both are going to work together effectively. The majority of difficulties in the supervision relationship stem from a lack of clarity about authority and accountability.

In developing a supervision agreement, it is useful to complete a supervisee’s history of supervision. This assists the supervisee to reflect on what behaviours and aspects of the supervisory style they found promoted and hindered their learning and also shows willingness and desire to get to know the supervisor. The material that is generated and agreed, through this discussion, forms the basis of a supervision agreement. This process can build trust and promote confidence early in the relationship, as well as uncovering and addressing the assumptions that may have been made by both parties.

The supervision agreement can also include the role that other leaders (for example practice leaders) might have in providing some of the functions of supervision and how the team manager and senior practitioner will work together to ensure adequate supervision and clarity regarding case direction for the new practitioner.

The supervision agreement should be reviewed every six months and sits alongside the PPD plan. Supervision agreements need to be re-negotiated with changes of supervisors

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