To maximize employee opportunity to progress to a higher or more satisfying level of responsibility in a profession or occupation.
The Department of Children and Families, through the Office of the Commissioner, has made a strong commitment to upward mobility. The Department views this program as a systematic way to aid employees in identifying, enhancing and applying their particular aptitudes. Further, it is a way to achieve the upward movement of aspiring employees who might have difficulty making progress otherwise. Experience with the upward mobility program has shown that it not only maximizes employee participant job satisfaction, but the very existence of such a program has a positive “ripple” affect on the larger Agency workforce and the Agency’s clients.
The Department of Children and Families has developed an upward mobility program in conformance with Affirmative Action regulations and the spirit of guidelines established by the Committee on Upward Mobility.
- Employees in entry level classifications
- Clerical, maintenance and paraprofessional employees
- Service workers who desire to improve their skill level in the Social Work profession
Special Class Title Focus – Upward Mobility initiatives focused on, but not limited to:
Personnel Assistant Fiscal Administrative Assistant Children Services Assistant Youth Services Officer Trainee Cooks Assistant Protective Services Trainee Social Work Case Aide Social Worker Trainee Social Worker (enhancing professional skill level’s combating “burnout”) The structure of the Department’s Upward Mobility Program is organized around several comprehensive components:
- Career Counseling
- Classification and
- Progressive Human Resources Policies
Within each component, the Agency administers two different kinds of activities:
- Individual employee – Specific activity (individual target promotions, etc.)
- Broad agency-wide activities (program, operative procedures, policies, etc.)
The Department of Children and Families is a human services agency which regularly practices methods and deploys employee resources to protect and support children. To do this, the Department provides individuals with the tools necessary to assure an independent and fulfilling life. Both in its service activities and in its management of staff, the Department seeks to provide individuals with the opportunity to obtain meaningful job and life skills.
The Department believes that training, education and staff development:
- improves the quality of service delivered to clients;
- improves job performance and increases job satisfaction; and
- provides employees with enhanced opportunity for upward mobility.
It is the mission of the Department to provide an ongoing system of training that provides staff with opportunities to develop and improve their job and life skills. To meet this mission, we have established a Training Academy and will regularly employ external resources necessary to provide staff with career development opportunities.
The Department of Children and Families Training Academy became a reality in January of 1992, with the establishment of the facility in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In January of 1997 the Training Academy relocated to the Department’s Central Office in Hartford.
Training is an important issue as a result of the Juan F. Consent Decree which settled a lawsuit by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union challenging the State of Connecticut. Issues involved in the case related to: adequate investigation and follow-up of abuse and neglect reports; reasonable effort to prevent out-of-home placement of children; care of children placed outside of their homes; and measures necessary to assure permanent placements. The parties agreed to mediate the issues rather than face a lengthy, costly lawsuit.
The resulting Consent Decree, effective since January of 1991, formulated principles and practices in child welfare addressing preventive and protective services, with the establishment of the Training Academy as a major component. The Training Academy shall provide, as per the Consent Decree Training Academy manual, “the state of the art, high quality, competency based, culturally responsive training, in accordance with national standards for practice in public child welfare, encourage staff to attain professional education; and utilize current research to improve in-service training and service delivery.” Plus, to “ensure that DCF employees possess the necessary critical information, knowledge and skills, the Training Academy shall offer pre-service preparation and in-service training for all employees, as well as training for foster parents and contracted service providers as appropriate.”
The Training Academy Advisory Board was established as the representative planning body for the training system. The Training Academy is operated by the Commissioner of DCF in consultation with the Training Academy Advisory Board. Per the Training Academy manual, “this assures that strategic planning, operational planning and program evaluation are routinely conducted by the most knowledgeable and committed people in the system. The representative nature of the group assures that all relevant information is considered before recommendations are made, and that decisions take into account the diverse needs and interest of constituent members.”
The Academy operates and maintains a professional library of up-to-date books periodicals, professional journals and abstracts related to social welfare, child welfare, child welfare management, supervision, protective and preventive services, children’s mental health issues, juvenile justice issues and services. The Librarian responds timely to requests for materials from all staff.
Managers, professionals and support staff at the Academy work cooperatively with the Department’s regional offices and facilities to coordinate training plans and meet identified training needs. Newly hired social workers and social work trainees are assigned to training units where they remain throughout their initial ten months with the Agency. The Training Academy and the Regional Office Training Unit Supervisors work closely to facilitate reinforcement of the materials presented at the Academy.
Newly hired Social Worker Trainees and Social Workers, both known as “Trainees” attend a forty-five day pre-service training program over an eight month period at the Training Academy. Training is usually scheduled so that the trainee spends six days per month at the Academy and then one or two weeks in the region prior to returning to the Academy. While the Trainee is in the region, he/she is assigned cases and works closely with the training supervisor to reinforce the competencies and skills taught at the Academy.
A major component of this training program is the presentation of four modules of core training developed by the Child Welfare League of America Training Institute. These modules address 52 competency areas that represent the core of child welfare practice. This pre-service curriculum established a theoretical framework for child welfare practice, transmits critical information, and promotes the development of job related skills. It was designed for adult learners, and as such integrates numerous opportunities for experiential learning and application of content to the job. When this is coupled with the supervision provided by the training unit supervisor, who has been through this same training, it maximizes the opportunity for the trainee to develop the skills necessary to do the job.
In compliance with the Department’s Progressive Human Resources Program, Social Worker Trainees and Social Workers are evaluated twice in their ten month working test period, once at four months and again at ten months. Additional written evaluations are provided by the Training Academy at the four month and ten month anniversaries. These preliminary evaluations provide Trainees with critical feedback necessary for advancement to permanent status.
Newly appointed Social Work Supervisors also receive a full program of competency training following the American Humane Association curriculum. Social Work Supervisors are also assessed as to job performance. They are trained to identify motivational and systematic obstacles to performance and, upon return to their individual regions, collaborate with other supervisory staff and managers to resolve those obstacles. Additional training on cultural competency is available to supervisors at any time.
Social Work Supervisors, particularly those chosen to lead the regional training units, meet every other month with the Training Academy staff to enhance their roles as enablers of staff. Regional Program Supervisors assigned to supervise the Training Units meet at the Training Academy at different times from the Social Work Supervisors. Regional Program Supervisors meet with Social Work Supervisors for training on a twice a week basis, to assist them in establishing working relationships with assigned staff, managing priorities, running a unit meeting, evaluating performance, and establishing relationships with community providers.
Training seminars have been designed and conducted specifically for all Department Managers and Supervisors to integrate the technical aspects of effective supervision and administration with the values of social work, as practiced by a child welfare agency. These trainings provide for a basic understanding of child development and timelines, the significance of separation, etc. Trainings emphasize sensitivity to cultural issues and demonstrate the ramifications of insensitivity to service delivery to our clients.
Each regional office and facility at the Department of Children and Families carries out is own localized training program, focusing on issues identified in a formal needs assessment survey headed by the Training Academy. This formal needs assessment survey is implemented once a year, and provides an opportunity for local managers and supervisors to determine areas for improvement.
Employees are provided with a Training Request Forms (TRS) to self-identify training needs. These forms are compiled, resulting in regionalized training plans. Each training plan is different, and focuses on five major priority areas defined by local TRS responses. However, there are recurrent training themes such as training requests for child development and mental health information, skill building in writing and legal matters, and mandatory seminars for OSHA and child car seat utilization.
In the next review year the Affirmative Action Division will work more closely with the Training Academy on the development and implementation of training resources identified in training needs assessments and, in issues related to Affirmative Action. This coordination will assist in the assurance of a competent and motivated workforce at the Department.
In-service training is offered by the Training Academy to acquaint Department staff, through lectures, seminars and workshops, with new knowledge and methods relating to worker duties, management practices and supervisory techniques. In-services reinforce and update prior training, particularly in areas suggested in workers or supervisors Training Request Forms (TRS).
In-service trainings held in collaboration with outside professionals encouraging staff to continue to improve their knowledge and skills by enrolling in courses at educational institutions and attending workshops held by professional organizations.
Facilities Training Network and Professional Development Committees:
The important purpose of the Facilities Training Network and the Professional Development Committees is to ensure uniform high standards of training and excellence within the Department’s facilities as well as enhance, through communication and collaboration, the upward mobility development of facility staff, primarily in the non-professional classes. High and consistent standardization of training for staff helps to ensure high consistent standardization of services to clients and families.
In this review year the Network has expanded to include the Superintendents of the DCF facilities themselves, as well as more high level clinical managers and supervisors. Training to support the goals of the Affirmative Action Plan is a high priority of the Network.
Representatives recruit and inform candidates concerning NP6 and P1 Health Career Mobility Grants and certification assistance made available each spring and fall: 1199 bargaining unit members (P1 and NP6) in the Department have available to them a Career Mobility Fund which is designated to grant release time with pay for members to take courses in health care related fields. The Department gets reimbursed from the fund for their time off the job. A joint labor-management committee defines the criteria for selection each year.
These same 1199 bargaining unit employees also have available a Certification Assistance Fund, to help pay for professional licenses, testing and certification costs. For example, this fund will pay for the examination application fee for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW).
Members of the Facilities Network also collaborate on the submission of P1 special workshop fund grants for their facilities, providing specialized trainings for nurses and clinicians on important topics and trends.
As with the Facilities Training Network, the purpose of the Professional Development Committees is to encourage professionalism and the upgrading of Department staff, and to ensure the high and consistent standardization of services to clients and families. Members of the Committee, representatives chosen by each Facility Superintendent, are completely responsible for determining their training needs and for the development and implementation of an annual workshop filled with day long training seminars. The Training Academy and Affirmative Action Division provide all necessary support and coordination for the committees, frequently call Training Advisory Councils.
Professional Development Committees have been established for the following occupational categories or job titles:
Representatives from each Department Regional Office and Facility:
- Clerical Occupational Category -Paraprofessional and Professional Business Office Workers
- Representatives from the Facilities only:
- Service Maintenance Occupational category (Food Service
- Paraprofessional and Professional Recreation Workers
- Paraprofessional Childcare Workers
- Nursing and Health Care Workers
Federal collaboratives, including IV-E and Grants continue to be pursued by the Department. Title IV-E Federal financial participation means that the Federal Government will repay states for training and local child protection personnel services. DCF currently meets requirements for 75% reimbursement of salary costs for the Training Academy, and for additional costs of regional training and services. The Department’s Fiscal Division, Revenue Enhancement Unit administers a formula of random moments/samplings to determine reimbursement costs.
The Training Academy provides training coordination for two major grant initiatives. The first, the Basic Child Abuse Grant allows for the provisions of in-service workshops on domestic violence. Community based service providers such as the Interval House and Non-violence Alliance provides the trainings. The frequent presence of domestic violence, coupled with substance abuse, reported to our child protection social workers, makes it essential that DCF staff maintain an in-depth understanding of these issues and how they contribute to risk for child abuse.
The second grant initiative, the Children’s Justice Act Grant, is utilized to provide collaborative training in joint investigations of child sexual and serious physical abuse. This training is available to all members of the multi-investigatory child protection teams consisting of DCF Social Work investigators, state police, state attorney’s and hospital medical personnel.
The Training Academy participates in the Federal Graduate Education Support Program, known as G E.S. This program provides a stipend to participating Department employees of $6,000 annually to pursue advanced social work degrees. Regional field instructors are also re-numerated with a $500.00 stipend for their important supervisory role.
The Graduate Education Support (G.E.S.) Program is truly an excellent support for social work employees. Thru this stipend, employees are eligible for a modified work week of 35 hours from the usual 40 hours, and are able to devote time to research and study pursuits.
Each regional office, facility and division handles their own G.E.S. program and selection process. Usually there are more G.E.S. slots than there are applicants. In the next review year, the Affirmative Action Division will assist as necessary with the selection procedures used by the regions/facilities/central office, to assure consistency and continuity of the guidelines for program use.
Copies of the G.E.S. application and guidelines, names of social work staff selected along with demographic information, as well as the names and demographics of the field instructors, are all included in this section of the Plan.
The Social Work Internship Program (SWIP) is a major demonstration of the Department’s commitment to assist staff in their efforts to increase their knowledge and skills in the areas of social work.
The primary mission of SWIP is to enhance the quality of Department services to children and families through opportunities for staff to utilize education to improve their professional work skills. The program supports retention of outstanding staff by providing opportunities for professional growth and preparation for advancement.
The Social Work Internship Program is an innovative educational sabbatical which has been provided by the Department since the mid-1980’s, when it was originally known as the Clinical Internship Program. From its inception as a project designed in cooperation with the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, its purpose remains to enhance the quality of services to our children, and to upgrade the clinical skills and credentials of our staff.
As a result of the implementation of the Federal Consent Decree, the number of SWIP internships or available positions has increased from three to ten. Summer block internships have been included as well, allowing concentrated fields of study and placements for eligible staff during the summer session.
Participation of colleges and universities has increased to the current roster of the University of Connecticut, Southern Connecticut State University, Saint Joseph College, Springfield College and Fordham University.
The Social Work Internship Program is administered by the Training Academy under the leadership of the SWIP Advisory Committee, consisting of supervisory representatives from the regional offices (some of whom are graduates of the program), experienced clinicians and, members of the Training Academy. Much of the Advisory Board’s work is voluntary and is dedicated to the Department’s mission to enhance client service.
Eligibility for SWIP includes social work and direct service staff in regional offices, facilities and central office divisions. Viable candidates must have finished at least three years of service by the time that they would begin the program and, they must have gained acceptance into a Social Work Master’s program at one of the participating universities. Selections are based on a cumulative score from a written comprehensive examination, review of performance appraisals and professional references, submission of a writing sample, and a structured oral interview complete with a case vignette.
Field placements have included DCF families and community agencies serving the DCF client population. Field placements in 2000-2001 include High Meadows, Connecticut Children’s Place, Riverview Hospital, Klingberg Family Centre, Hartford Health Department, Hartford Behavioral Health and DCF’s Central Office.
The Department provides in-service training programs in partnership with the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and the State of Connecticut Community Colleges Continuing Education Division. Training catalogs come out twice yearly (fall and spring) and copies are made available to all DCF employees. The training catalog is also available on the internet at http://www.commnet.edu/inservice/index.asp
. Click on "View Catalog in PDF format" from the "Course Information" section found on the left side of the page.
2. Career Counseling
Career development at the Department of Children and Families is an umbrella plan which can best be described with the following definitions:
- Career – The sequence of a person’s work related activities and behaviors and associated attitudes, values and aspirations over the span of one’s life.
- Career Planning – A deliberate process for:
- Becoming aware of self, opportunities, constraints, choices and
- Identifying career-related goals.
- Programming of work, education and related development experiences to provide the direction, timing and sequence of steps to attain a specified career goal.
- Career Management – An ongoing process of preparing, implementing and monitoring career plans undertaken by the individual alone, or in concert with the organization.
In Summary, then:
Career development can be defined as the outcomes of actions of career plans as viewed both from individual and organization perspectives.
All aspects of career development are consciously or unconsciously – but inextricably – related to all other aspects of life and its goals and plans. Life planning may be defined as a self-analysis process for identifying relative emphases in one’s life among work, family, leisure, education and spiritual development.
Careers are not built on guarantees, but on recognizing and preparing for opportunities. Although individuals are ultimately responsible for their career development, an important function of management is to cultivate their unit’s human resources and encourage participation of subordinates in their own professional growth.
The Department of Children and Families continues to develop an extended program of career counseling. This commitment to employee career counseling is born of the same philosophy that supports its basic agency mission and its dedication to children at risk and their families. The Agency believes in people and in their basic dignity. By supporting, guiding, and encouraging career development, the Agency develops trained and motivated employees while contributing to productive engagement.
Career counseling is a major component of the Department’s upward mobility program. As an ongoing activity, career counseling is provided to all levels of Department employees by the Human Resources and Affirmative Action Divisions, as well as managers and supervisors statewide. Career counseling is built into Training Academy pre-service and in-service modules for social work staff. At least one career counseling workshop is held at each of the Professional Development Training events held every year for non-professional staff.
Counseling is designed to assist Department employees in analyzing work interests, aptitudes and aspirations in planning for promotions, as well as to explore opportunities within the larger state system and life career planning. Affirmative Action career counseling begins as informational counseling with the provision of a number of written materials such as career ladder flyers, specifications, tips on how to take examination such as orals or multiple choice, etc. Advice is based on practical steps to successful promotion. It is the policy to share information on all career options viable and available to an employee, and to allow him or her the responsibility of acting on this knowledge. Employees are encouraged to analyze strengths, weaknesses and interests and establish goals and action plans.
Counseling is also available to staff who may experience difficulties in performance on the job. Many times, career counseling is begun because of performance issues but soon evolves into proactive upward mobility planning.
The Department advertises and makes available the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for all levels of staff. DCF currently contracts with the University of Connecticut Health Center to provide EAP services. EAP offers free counseling and referral services to state employees with personal problems which negatively affect their job performance.
The Department is committed to making every effort to assist its employees whose work performance has deteriorated due to a wide range of problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse, family or marital difficulties, financial problems, or other behavioral problems.
Human Resources notifies the Affirmative Action Division to assist, as appropriate, in helping resolve performance issues and thus retain the employees. Many times, retention is achieved by the development of a written stipulated agreement to the employee which clearly addresses the issues of performance, and which provides solutions and timetables for resolution.
Stipulated agreements and other counseling and retention measures are utilized frequently by the Human Resources and Affirmative Action Divisions. Career Counseling is also provided by supervisory staff as an ongoing supervisory activity. Using an employee development survey, counseling at the supervisory level is designed to assist the employee in analyzing work interests, aptitudes, and aspirations. Then the employees are encouraged to think about their promotional goals, training needs and timetables.
Employees periodically are encouraged to update and/or reassess their plans. The objective of this is to reinforce the importance of career management—both the self management done by individuals, and career counseling of supervisors and other agency administrators. This is consistent with:
- Training Activities Personnel Activities
- On the job organizational orientation Affirmative Action Plan Managing Stress New Employee Orientation Your Career, Your Life.
- Job Postings-Employment Opportunities Your Future/Your Retirement Career Paths and/or Ladders
- Tuition Reimbursement
- Progressive Reclassification
The Department of Children and Families works on classification issues constantly, and has achieved a reasonably fluid classification structure. Most Agency employees are in class titles that are part of extended job families with multiple step career ladders. This had been through continuing aggressive classification work.
The Human Resources Division, with the assistance of the Affirmative Action Division, carries out actions which ensures that positions within the Department are not only classified at proper levels, but also that the positions are part of a lengthy career ladder of opportunities, beginning with a reachable entry level title to the highest step supervisory position. Movement within the career ladders are kept as fluid as possible and, whenever possible positions are considered comparable with positions in similar career ladders.
The Department’s classifications system remains in excellent shape due to this diligence.
A good example of the Department’s progressive classification practice is the major occupational series of Social Work. It is particularly notable both because of its size (over 1000 staff, many are at a working level) and its flexibility, characteristics that are often mutually exclusive. The Social Work Series:
- Includes eight class titles, from training levels to top management;
- Employs a Trainee class as the key entry level which serves as a bridge class for college graduates who lack professional experience;
- Contains relevant and flexible job experience as substitutions for most educational requirements;
- Has the working level class of Social Worker on un-ranked, continuous recruitment;
- and Maintains supervisory level classes on unranked, continuous recruitment experience and training exams.
Social Work Class Titles and Career Progression:
- Program Director Program Director Administration Child. Prot. Serv.
- Program Supervisor Program Supervisor Administration Child. Prot. Serv.
- Children Services
- Social Work Consultant
- Social Worker
- Social Worker Trainee
The Social Worker Trainee entry level professional job class is a very affirmative use of a trainee class to ensure that the Department recruit, hire and promote protected classes to our workforce.
This seamless progression continues forward in the experience and training requirements to beyond the working level of Social Worker. Promotional examinations for Children Services Consultant, Social Work Supervisor, Program Supervisor and Program Director have been put on continuous recruitment in coordination with DAS Business Center.
Job specifications, qualifications, job-structuring and personnel procedures including recruitment and examination modes take into consideration measures which will facilitate upward mobility, career paths and a workforce which reflects the children whom we serve.
The Department also has seamless career ladders in place for its other administrative and professional classes: In the Fiscal Division, the business career ladder covers six levels supported by two training classes and one bridge class;
In the Information Services Division, there are six career levels incorporating one bridge class and the allowable substitution job experience for academic credentials at all levels; In the Human Resources Division there are seven career levels progressing from the training level to the Director of Human Resources. In addition, there are bridge classes and the provision that the Office Assistant experience can qualify directly for both Personnel Aide and Personnel Assistant. At all levels, relevant job experience may be substituted for academic requirements.
The most useful managerial career ladder is the Leadership Apprentice. Incumbents in this class receive formal and/or on the job instruction and training designed to provide the necessary knowledge and skills to qualify for appointment to a designated managerial/confidential class. Incumbents are eligible for promotion (usually reclassification) to the target class without competitive examination upon completion of an approved training program and satisfactory service.
The training program is written in accordance with the Department of Administrative Services and identifies a number of training program objectives which list knowledge, skills and abilities of the target class that the incumbent should have acquired upon completion of the training program. Further, managerial competencies are frequently used as a basis for training and evaluation of managers/confidentials in the program.
The Department consistently pays attention to the minimum qualifications when monitoring for job relatedness and evidence of equal opportunity. As an Agency-wide practice, DCF classes allow substitutions of experience for educational background, as the agency accepts relevant volunteer experience as qualifying, provided it can be quantified and documented. This has enabled an extended population of applicants to meet the minimum entrance requirements. The only exceptions are those classes requiring licensure, classes whose minimum qualifications are determined by statute, and the classes of Social Worker Trainee, Social Worker and Connecticut Career Trainee, all of which have a statewide bachelor’s degree requirement. In most instances, where the Connecticut Career Trainee is the entry level, the Department has established a corresponding paraprofessional bridge level to assure equal access to agency professional and technical levels.
The pre-professional trainee career development program is utilized by the Department to provide upward or lateral mobility for non-professional employees (primarily clerical and paraprofessional staff) who have traditionally encountered difficulty accessing technical and professional level positions.
The Department’s use of the pre-professional trainee program demonstrates our commitment to bridge classes and career development of our non-professional employees. As with use of the Leadership Apprentice class, DAS coordination and approval is required. Incumbents must complete an approved written training program. They receive formal and/or on the job training and instruction designated to provide the necessary knowledge and skills to qualify for appointment, usually by re-classification, to a designated professional administrative or technical job title.
DCF also uses Fiscal Administrative Assistant, Personnel Aide and Personnel Assistant classes as bridges from the clerical to the professional career fields.
Associate degrees will be routinely considered, particularly in the paraprofessional titles of Children Services Worker, Youth Services Officer and Social Worker Case Aide.
The Department establishes positions at the Office Assistant level, and frequently recruits at the entry level of Clerk Typist. This action allows for a wider recruitment of protected classes. After on the job training and supervision, Clerk Typists may be easily reclassed to the Office Assistant working level.
Finally, please note that all non-professional occupational categories at the Department utilize entry level job titles in order to bring aboard protected class and disadvantaged candidates, for example, Youth Services Officer Trainee, Children Services Assistant, Social Work Case Aide, Clerk, Clerk Typist, Cook Assistant and Protective Services Trainee.
4. Progressive Human Resources Programs
A progressive personnel program represents one of the most systematic supports for Affirmative Action.
In the past, the Department of Children and Families participated in the Decentralized Personnel Exam Program known as DPEP, which provided a system for the promotion of DCF employees in a timely manner based upon performance, accomplishments and preparation for advancement.
Although we mourn the decision of the Department of Administrative Services to abolish agency based promotional examinations at this time, their alternative service of prompt agency and statewide promotional exams, often experience and training, has proven effective enough.
However, the most effective tool for upward mobility promotions remains intact, and is widely utilized by the Department – reclassification of an incumbent within his/her own position.
The process for reclassification is very timely and affirmative. First, the Department must have an operational need for the position to be at a different, if not higher class level. Second, the incumbent currently in the position must qualify in terms of experience and training to this same new level. Then the incumbent completes a duties questionnaire and other paperwork and the request for reclass is sent to DAS for review and approval.
The Human Resources Retention Plan, submitted and approved by the Federal Court Monitor, discusses programs which provides the framework for progressive personnel programs for the Department of Children and Families. Programs which specifically focus upon progressive Human Resources implementation require reiterating in this section.
New Employee Orientation
Employees who are newly hired or transfer to DCF, are required to attend a New Employee Orientation Program. The Orientation Program was revised and expanded from one day to two days in April 2000 in order to provide a more in-depth orientation for new employees to the Department. This program is designed to acclimate the employee to the DCF culture by providing information on the Agency, it’s mission, core values, structure, and the Commissioner’s vision. The program also includes sections on policies and procedures as well as employee benefits. New employees are provided with a completely revised Employee Handbook which encompasses rules and regulations of the State and the Department. Also included is information on benefits and other pertinent information. New employees are also provided with a copy of their job specification. New hires complete the forms required for payroll processing and selection of benefits. The Training Academy also provides an overview of the Training Academy and cultural diversity training.
Personnel Officers are available to employees to answer questions, research problems and intercede with insurance providers, as needed, to ensure DCF employees receive all benefits to which they are entitled. Benefits counseling also enables employees to make informed decisions regarding their medical and dental insurance, retirement plan, life insurance, Dependent Care Assistance Program and Long Term Care Insurance.
The State of Connecticut offers a variety of programs to encourage enhancement of education and skills, including educational leave of absence, conference and workshop reimbursement and tuition reimbursement. DCF encourages its employees to participate in these programs. We utilize the new employee orientation process to ensure that all are aware of these opportunities.
Employees who wish to further their education may opt for an educational leave of absence. The educational leave policy outlined in General Letter 27 (revised July 27, 1990) applies to educational leaves of absence for employees in the classified service except where superseded or modified by the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
Educational leave of absence with pay, partial pay, or without pay, is leave from regular duties and responsibilities, and may be authorized to enable an employee to study or receive technical training which will increase proficiency in his/her position or for other reasons which may be deemed by the Department to be in the best interest of the State. Leaves may be granted to gain advanced knowledge and insight into new trends or techniques, to increase the professional capacity of the employees and the Department itself, to keep abreast of new developments in rapidly changing professional or technical fields, to provide needed refresher study, or to permit special training in key occupations or occupations for which human resources are in short supply.
All educational leaves, whether with or without pay for more than five working days in a calendar year, must be approved in advance. Only permanent full-time employees are eligible for an educational leave of absence. Traditionally, DCF has only granted educational leaves of absence without pay, while holding an employee’s position for three months. DCF must determine whether a rearrangement of the employee’s work schedule, to accommodate the training, is feasible, travel time will not be excessive, essential services will not be impaired, and an undue burden will not be place on the Department or on other employees by excusing an employee from their regular work assignment.
The leave request must identify whether the course work is part of a formal degree program, the degree being sought, and the major field of study. The request must also provide an explanation of how the Department and the State will benefit by granting the leave.
Conference and Workshop Reimbursement
Many Union contracts with the State have a provision for reimbursement of costs associated with attending conferences, workshops and seminars which are job related. Costs such as registration fees, travel expenses, and meals are subject to such reimbursement. Reimbursement requests must be approved by the Department.
Tuition reimbursement allows employees to continue their undergraduate or graduate education while employed by the State and is available to employees who have completed their initial working test period. Tuition reimbursement permits employees to offset a portion of the cost of their education. Many bargaining units have different guidelines for tuition reimbursement with regard to the number of courses allowed, the rate of reimbursement and the amount of funds allocated. Payment is subject to the submittal of verification of payment, documentation of a passing grade, and the availability of funds.
Applications for tuition reimbursement must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the start of classes. The application must state the cost per credit, and any financial aid must be reported. Loans which are to be repaid and are given directly to the employee do not need to be reported, but if a loan is paid directly to the educational institution, a statement must be submitted with the application to verify that the financial aid is given in the form of a loan. At the end of the semester, employees must submit the grade for the course along with proof of payment in order to be reimbursed. All requests and any questions regarding tuition reimbursements should be directed to the Payroll Unit.
The Department has made great strides in the area of worker safety in recent years. DCF has regarded safety as important, utilizing loss control funding from the Department of Administrative Services to shape and sponsor training for both facility based and regional environments, and the review of safety practices within the regions by a recognized expert. The Department has a Worker’s Compensation/Safety Coordinator within the Human Resources Division to coordinate and manage safety programs. Safety Committees have been established at each work site, and safety training has been conducted in the regional offices, Central Office, and in the facilities.
Workplace injuries are taken seriously by DCF. When an injury occurs it is reviewed by the Safety Committee as well as the work location management team. All workplace injury claims are managed by Berkley Administrator’s, a third party provider of case management and administrative services for worker’s compensation. In addition, the Department of Administrative Services has implemented a state-wide automated system (Automated Worker Compensation System) of injury reporting and claim handling to aid in timely and accurate services.
DCF has implemented a light duty program to assist employees who are injured on the job, the opportunity to return to work on light duty for up to 90 days to help ease their transition back to the workplace.
Loss control initiatives have been implemented to help prevent injuries and/or reduce the severity of injuries. These include, the “Handle with Care” program at Long Lane School, and a hybrid CPI/RESPONSE program at our other facilities. Another significant initiative is the pilot program of Assaulted Staff Action Program (ASAP) at Riverview Hospital. This program is a debriefing program to discuss the assault of a staff member.
In addition to the above initiatives, the Training Academy presents a broad based curriculum of safety training programs.
In an effort to reduce employee stress by minimizing situations where employees are at risk of injury, the Department, through it’s Worker’s Compensation and Safety Coordinator, provides training to all regional staff. Social work and clerical employees have been trained in the areas of risk assessment and personal safety.
Violence in the Workplace
The Human Resources Division has developed a “Workplace Violence Plan” and have trained supervisors and managers with the procedures to follow in the event of an incident of workplace violence. In the next review year training will be expanded to all Department employees.
The Department continues to provide benefits to employees as required by state law. Permanent employees who work at least twenty-one (21) hours bi-weekly are entitled to medical and dental insurance. There are currently five (5) health care plans and two (2) dental plans from which employees can choose.
Group Life insurance is an optional state benefit offered to permanent employees who have completed six months of service. This plan provides term life insurance coverage for the duration of an employee’s state employment and during retirement. The plan is 100% employee paid.
The Department Care Assistance Program (DCAP) is another benefit available to State employees. This program allows employees to have money deducted from their paycheck in any amount to a maximum of $5,000 per year to set aside as pre-tax dollars to be used to pay for child care or care of an elderly dependent. DCAP is a reimbursement program where the employee pays the service provider, then submits claims for the amount spent. Since this money is deducted from gross pay prior to income tax withholding, there is a significant tax savings to the employee. To qualify, services provided must be child or adult day care which is necessary to enable the employee to work. In other words, private school tuition, swimming lessons, music lessons or the like, are not qualifying expenses. For child care, the child must be under thirteen years of age. The third party administrator for this program is Colonial Life and Accident. Representatives from Colonial meet with employees, either on an individual basis or in groups, to provide information and to enroll employees during the annual open enrollment period. General information is available through the Human Resources Division.
The Department will be providing an open enrollment period of “guaranteed issue” for Long Term Care Insurance coverage to all employees. This state benefit allows for coverage of expenses incurred for long term care which are not covered by the regular health insurance coverage available to employees.
State employees are eligible for various types of retirement plans, depending upon date of hire, job classification and the employee’s collective bargaining unit.
Quality of Life
Retirement counseling is available through the DCF Payroll Division, or the State Retirement Division.
The Department has identified a variety of issues which affect employees’ employment decisions. It is important to consider issues which may not appear to be directly related to an employee’s job, but which have an impact on his/her happiness and well-being. Family demands, personal safety concerns, and lack of recognition are all issues which impact on an employee’s perception of self and their job. An employee who feels overwhelmed, stressed, or incompetent will not be happy, and will have no incentive to remain in their present position. It is frequently these less tangible issues which, although often overlooked, are the deciding factors in whether an employee chooses to leave the job or retain employment.
Under the Administrative and Residual contract (P-5), DCF continues to offer a flex schedule for employees. All other collective bargaining agreements have contractual language which provides for consideration of an adjusted work schedule to balance personal needs such as child care, family care, medical, transportation or educational participation. All such requests for a flex schedule or schedule adjustment are subject to the operational needs of the agency and require prior approval.
Job Sharing/Part Time Positions
The Department’s work force includes employees who are struggling to balance careers, family demands and educational enhancement. Through the years, many employees have expressed an interest in part-time employment, but the Department has not been in a position to accommodate part-time requests. As a result, many highly trained and dedicated employees reluctantly resign, in order to care for young children, ill family members, or to pursue higher education. In some cases, employees were rehired by DCF when outside demands changed.
An increase in the availability of part-time positions is one solution to this problem. Another solution which has been used on a limited basis within DCF is job sharing. This is where two employees share the demands of one full time position. This allows for the Agency to continue to have the services of a full-time position provided, without interruption, while allowing two employees the flexibility they need so they can satisfy their personal demands white remaining employed.
When operationally feasible, DCF will offer more part-time positions and job sharing arrangements which will allow: employees to stay current with the philosophies, policies and procedures of the Department; ensure continuity of services provided by qualified and experienced staff to the children and families which we serve; allow employees to remain employed while meeting the growing variety of personal demands; and provide an alternative for employees who see to further their education.
The Human Resources Division has reviewed job classification in terms of job sharing. This included a review of the duties and responsibilities of the job and an assessment of the feasibility of sharing those responsibilities between two employees. It must be acknowledged all jobs cannot be shared effectively.
The Human Resources Division continues to review situations for the possibility of increased numbers of part time positions, and will advise managers of the potential of increasing the number of part time staff.
This recognition of the dedication of our employees to the Agency and to the children and families we serve is critical to ensure retention. If an employee feels he/she is not appreciated or his/her skills are not being utilized, the employee is likely to look elsewhere for employment since wages in the state system are regulated by the classification system and collective bargaining agreements. The Department must explore other ways in which to demonstrate to employees they are valued and appreciated.
The Department of Children and Families has used some different methods of recognizing employees. Every year, a Child Care Conference is held for institutional child care staff where a “Child Care Worker of the Year” is selected. The Unified School District II also has a “Teacher of the Year.” An annual Clerical Conference is held to provide clerical staff with an opportunity to attend workshops and network with other support staff from throughout the Agency. In 1999, the Agency took part in the Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) annual recognition program and one of our institutional direct care staff was chosen as a Regional Award Winner and was invited to the CWLA annual conference. The regional offices continue to conduct some form of “Staff Appreciation Day” to recognize all employees for the important role they play in our Agency. Individual supervisors have also commended employees on superior performance by writing to the employee regarding specific incidents or general issues, such as outstanding attendance or performance on a specific case. These types of letters can be rewarding as they serve as positive feedback and are placed in the employee’s Human Resources file to become part of the official employment record.
The Human Resources Division will continue to review the issue of employee recognition during the coming year in order to evaluate current programs and where the Department needs to implement new programs. One program which is being explored, is an award for “Employee of the Year”, open to all employees of the Agency.