Friday, August 17, 2018

When the stressors of life as a social worker attack, Sandra Kinney jabs back with a two-pronged defense.

By day, she helps provide training and support to thousands of Washington’s child welfare workers, foster parents, and caregivers through more than 125 classes and customized coaching sessions as interim executive director of the Alliance for Child Welfare Excellence at the University of Washington School of Social Work. On weekends, Kinney is a dedicated boxer, training weekly at Seattle Boxing Gym in Capitol Hill—a means of building physical endurance and mental toughness for a career that demands as much.

“There’s a high level of stress for social workers,” Kinney says. “For a period of time in my career before joining the UW, I was the only administrator of twelve who wasn’t on high blood pressure medication. That eventually ended when I had to also start medication like everyone else.”

After a 20-year career in the field with stints in Arizona, Colorado and Washington, Kinney took over as interim director for the Alliance for Child Welfare Excellence in 2015. It was a welcome change of pace, but also a chance to ensure others working in the same field received the training and support they needed to be successful.

Created in 2010 at the invitation of the Washington State Children’s Administration, the Alliance was devised as a coordinated partnership between UW Seattle, UW Tacoma, and Eastern Washington University as well as Washington’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families—a newly formed agency that responds to all child abuse and neglect cases and which licenses all foster parents, caregivers, and child protective services workers.

The Alliance’s goal: provide newly hired child welfare workers with foundational training twice a month with sessions that focus on building skills through live simulations and other teaching techniques borne of research from the UW Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Law, and other participating institutions.

One such training, called “Interviewing Adults” was developed in conjunction with UW School of Nursing and the UW School of Social Work faculty utilizing the Debriefing with Good Judgement model from the Center for Medical Simulation to create skill based training for social workers.

“We’re where research and cutting edge technology hits practice,” Kinney says. “This partnership is that bridge between the universities and agencies that carry out the work.”