TOPEKA – The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) works diligently to improve the performance and safety of our adult and child welfare professionals. On a daily basis, our staff enter unpredictable, sometimes volatile, environments in order to protect and defend our most vulnerable Kansans. Whether entering an abusive home or testifying in court, it is important that these individuals are prepared and trained to handle difficult situations.
To that end, today, DCF unveiled its new simulation training lab during an open house, at the DCF Administration Building, 555 S. Kansas Ave., Topeka. The open house offered guests the opportunity to view the lab, as well as live training simulations.
The lab is designed to support the learning and training experiences of child welfare professionals, as well as adult protective services and licensure staff, on issues such as worker safety, interview techniques, communication techniques and investigations.
The training lab offers three different settings welfare professionals encounter. A residential arrangement includes a simulated kitchen, living room and/or bedroom. The home environment can be set up clean or dirty, and can include mock drug paraphernalia, alcohol containers, fake insects and other safety violations, to create a realistic scene. The training lab can also be transformed into a courtroom scene, complete with a judge’s bench, witness stand, court reporter, parent’s attorney and county/district attorney.
Through interaction with trained actors, workers are immersed in a realistic, interactive environment, while maintaining a safe learning experience. Simulations can be set up to include various relationships and interactions, such as family interviews, child and adult protection investigations and assessments, courtroom testimony and assessing foster and adopted families.
“This lab affords the opportunity to learn with real experiences in a safe environment, but also a very realistic environment,” DCF Strategic Development Director Beth Gunsalus said. “Our workers can learn to respond appropriately in intense, highly-emotional or unsafe situations in a home or courtroom.”
The training lab is equipped with cameras that produce a live feed in a nearby control room. Peers and supervisors can observe the training in real-time, offering additional learning experiences for other workers and providing a chance for instant feedback. In addition, the training can be broadcasted live to regional offices or recorded for online training classes.
The simulation training lab is part of the Kansas Child Welfare Professional Training Program (KCWPTP), which is a new, comprehensive training program rolling out to child welfare staff this year.
“The KCWPTP is an interactive, interwoven training system for the agency and our community partners,” Gunsalus said. “It also includes needs assessment features, allowing us to get feedback from staff on areas of emphasis they would like to focus on. This allows us to deliver the right training, to the right people, at the right time.”