The Western Wisconsin Partnership is made up of 24 Western Wisconsin county human/social service agencies (follow link to view counties in partnership), the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF), and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF). The purpose of this partnership is to contribute to the quality of services being provided to children and families served by child welfare staff in human/social service agencies. The vehicle for doing so is a comprehensive, competency-based training program for child welfare personnel.
Since 1991 there has been a Northeastern Wisconsin Partnership for Children and Families (NEW Partnership) centered out of UW-Green Bay’s Social Work Program. Native American tribes in that area and twenty-eight county human/social service departments, faculty/staff in the Social Work Program at UW-Green Bay and UW-Extension, as well as personnel from DCFS have been working together to develop high quality training for child welfare workers. They have been so successful that other counties asked to be added to the initial group. The UW-River Falls' Social Work Program was chosen as the site for the Western Wisconsin Partnership. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is the site of the Southern Partnership. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is the site of the Milwaukee Partnership. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is also the site of the Intertribal Child Welfare Training Partnership.
The Partnerships are funded by county, DCFS and federal Department of Health and Human Service ( Title IV-E, CAPTA) dollars with University support. The Western WI Partnership offices are located in the Wyman Education Building at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Staff includes the Outreach Specialist, Katie Holst ; Training Manager, Kelli Bowe; Foster Parent Training Manager, Karla Hasart; and Project Director, Jennifer Borup who is also a faculty member in the Social Work Program.
The training system includes a variety of learning mediums. Most of the training happens in workshops held in sites throughout the Western region. Gradually, the use of more distance education technologies will allow for workshops to be held more frequently and more locally. The pre-service training for new workers is now web-based as are portions of the foundation training. The content of training is determined by using input solicited from participants after each workshop, regular meetings with agency supervisors and directors, as well as frequent contact with DCFS staff. Specifically trained agency staff, as well as other local and national experts, are used as trainers and to develop training curriculum.
The training curriculum includes foundation courses that are designed primarily for new workers as well as advanced training for experienced workers, supervisors and directors. The research based curriculum reflects best practices in the field of child welfare and is based on social work values and principles. Training is now being extended to foster parents as well as the staff that support them.
Another learning medium is this WEB site which links workers to a wide variety of resources on topics relevant to child welfare practice. A library of print and video materials is also available. Eventually distance education technology will be incorporated into the training system to support the learning that happens in workshops. Linked to the curriculum are a variety of tools available to child welfare supervisors that will support them as they help workers prepare for workshops and incorporate what they have learned in those workshops into every day practice.