"Oh, this is actually okay": Understanding how one state child welfare training system adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic

Laura M. Schwab-Reese, Ida Drury, Heather Allan, and Kasey Matz - Child Abuse & Neglect



Training for new and existing child protection system (CPS) caseworkers is critical to developing and maintaining a competent workforce that effectively works towards safety, permanency, and wellbeing outcomes for children in the system. The COVID-19 pandemic required a shift to virtual training to continue training CPS professionals safely.


The purpose of our project was to determine if there were differences in learning outcomes between learners who completed training in the usual delivery methods (Pre-COVID) and the fully virtual delivery methods (Post-COVID). We also sought to understand any factors that facilitated or impeded successful virtual training during the pandemic.

Participants and setting

Caseworkers-in-training completed learning and satisfaction assessments through standard continuing quality improvement efforts. Training facilitators, course developers, and leadership completed qualitative interviews.


We assessed quantitative differences in one US state in learner knowledge, satisfaction, and behaviors before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and conducted a qualitative thematic analysis of interviews with training system employees.


Overall, there were limited differences in learner outcomes before and after the transition to virtual training delivery. Across the employee interviews, three main themes emerged: organizational culture facilitated the transition, external constraints caused challenges during the transition, and there were opportunities to evolve training practices positively.


The shift to a virtual learning environment had little impact on learner knowledge or satisfaction. Employee perspectives indicated that the pre-COVID investment in organizational culture has substantial dividends for performance during the crisis.