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.
By the late 1980's the state of Wisconsin had discontinued providing new worker training for county child protection staff. In Wisconsin, child protection services for children and their families is provided at the local level by county and tribal human service departments. The Wisconsin Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible for overseeing these services. When DCFS stopped providing new worker training, counties, particularly those in rural areas, found themselves with no way to provide training for their staff.
In 1991, a social work faculty member at the University of WI-Green Bay and several county human service directors began looking for ways to fund child welfare training and came across a way in which federal Title IV-E monies could be used. DCF was willing to pass through those dollars. Over the next couple of years, 28 counties and several Native American tribes joined what is now called the Northeast Wisconsin (NEW) Partnership. The counties and tribes contributed on a voluntary basis as did UW-Green Bay. At this point, there were no state GPR dollars funding the training.
As it became evident that the Partnership was meeting a critical training need, the other counties in the state asked DCF to establish Partnerships across the state. Two new Partnerships were develop and are located at the University of Wisconsin campuses at Madison and River Falls. The Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare had been providing training for many years but joined the other Partnerships at this time and is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. In about 2009, The American Indian Tribes decided that they wanted a Partnership dedicated to tribal train needs and the Indian Child Welfare Training Partnership was established. Initially located at UW-Green Bay, the Intertribal Partnership is now at UW-River Falls.
As of 2008, training provided by the Partnerships became required via WI Administrative Code, Ch. HFS 43 and the WI Dept. of Children and Families added state GPR funding to the Partnership's contracts. They also established a central training unit located at UW-Madison which provides coordinating and supportive functions for the training system. Counties and tribes continue to contribute annually to their respective Partnerships on a voluntary basis. On a statewide level, the training system organized itself into the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System.
The training required for child protective service staff includes an on-line Pre-Service Series that must be completed before a new worker takes on case responsibilities. These new workers must then complete 15 days of new worker foundation training and then 30 hours of more advanced training every 2 years, all of which is provided by their Partnership. The Partnerships also train county child welfare supervisors, managers and agency directors. As of January 2011, the Partnerships are also providing required foundation training for foster parents.
Each Partnerships Training Managers work with county and tribal child welfare staff as well as Dept. of Children and Family personnel to identify training needs and then either bring in experts from other states, or more typically, develop trainers from within the Wisconsin system to meet those identified needs. NEW and Milwaukee Partnerships have on-staff trainers as well. The Partnerships, including the central training unit, work together with DCFS staff to share resources and coordinate as much training as possible. Working with DCF also insures that their training needs are met as new legislation affecting child welfare is enacted and state standards are changed.
The Social Work Program at UW-River Falls houses both the Western Wisconsin Child Welfare Training Partnership which serves 24 counties of Western Wisconsin and the Intertribal Child Welfare Training Partnership which serves all 11 of Wisconsin's American Indian Tribes. Staffing includes a Director, Training Manager, Foster Parent Training Manger, student employee and Office Manager. Staffing for the Intertribal Partnership includes an Intertribal Training Manager and then shared time with the WWP office staff and director.