Social Workers and Mental Health Professionals Empowered with New Training and Support

Social Workers and Mental Health Professionals Empowered with New Training and Support

Social workers standing, smiling talking together in an office setting
Written by Laura A. Ornelas, LCSW, Director, Academy for Advancing Clinical Practice in Permanency
Published on: Mar 04, 2024
Category Social Work

Creating adoption competent clinical skills is no easy feat, it takes steadfast determination and a true commitment to the children and families we serve. I am so proud to be a social worker endeavoring on this journey and take my hat off to my social work and mental health sisters and brothers who join me on this road. We know that adoption and permanency work is complex. Because knowledge is power, it is our privilege to honor our professionals by continuing to create and offer opportunities to support, inspire and empower you.


Since 2009, C.A.S.E. has taken the lead in preparing professionals for adoption competence.  As many of you know, C.A.S.E. is the developer of two nationally recognized trainings designed to enhance the adoption competency of the workforce. Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) is an evidence-based and accredited assessment-based certificate program for post-master’s level licensed clinicians, currently offered in 20 states and growing. The National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI) is also ever expanding its reach. Currently being implemented in 32 state child welfare systems, NTI offers two state of the art, interactive web-based trainings for child welfare professionals and supervisors and another curriculum for mental health professionals. And now, NTI has been adapted as a web-based curriculum for School Based Mental Health Professionals to support school personnel and students with experiences of foster care, adoption and kinship care who may be struggling in the school setting. We acknowledge and celebrate the investment these social workers and mental health professionals have made in taking these trainings and committing them to practice.


We also know that more is often needed in the complex work our social workers and mental health professionals encounter on a daily basis in their work. Providing high level adoption competent coaching and supervision to support the challenges of clinical practice can make all the difference for staff and lead to untold success with complex family systems and clinical profiles of children. Substantiated by the research of implementation science, “most new skills can be introduced in training but must be practiced and mastered with the help of a coach.” In training close to 20,000 professionals through NTI and TAC, we have found coaching and case consultation with highly skilled adoption competent supervisors are vital components to demonstrable changes that ultimately affect child and family outcomes.

With this in mind, the concept for the C.A.S.E. Academy for Advancing Clinical Practice in Permanency (formerly known as the National Demonstration and Teaching clinic for Adoption Competency) was conceived. Combining coursework and practical application of skills into practice, Academy participants of all levels are provided a unique and empowering opportunity to develop or enhance a clinical specialty in adoption/permanency in a rich and supportive learning community.


As is often the case, the greatest challenges pay off with the greatest rewards. Mentored through the Academy, adoption/permanency social workers and mental health professionals come to know that it takes tremendous time, effort and support to develop into an adoption/permanency competent professional. It takes the understanding that this is not a ‘one and done’ kind of learning, it will be an unfolding process of consultation, applying what is learned into daily clinical practice and embracing the complexities of how to do the work. In the Academy, social work and mental health professionals are reinforced by celebrating the small successes, keeping ourselves and each other shored up, and continually committing to the evolution of our own knowledge and skills to best accomplish the work at hand.


The overarching goal of the Academy is to develop the next generation of well-trained social work and mental health professionals, who can remain committed to this specialty long term, passionate to benefit children, families and communities. In the Academy, we are guided by evidence informed and evidence-based trainings and research, informed and grounded by the power of those with lived experience, and benefitting from our field-tested adoption competent therapeutic services. When communities, organizations, systems, and families gain more adoption and permanency competent social work and mental health professionals, we know child outcomes will be improved across the board.


The Academy soft launched in 2023 with offerings to developing professionals early in their careers. Understanding the crushing impact of the combined workforce crisis with the mental health crisis on the adoption/permanency community, we did what social workers and mental health professionals do best-we got creative with the resources at hand and figured out how to expedite the learning process by immersing developing professionals with intensive support. Growing our own adoption and permanency competent professionals internal and external to C.A.S.E. has been a complete joy for those of us who have had the opportunity to support interns and newer professionals. Check out what we’re doing with the state of Oklahoma to help develop their workforce! I have loved watching them explore, inquire, push themselves, and learn. It has also been especially gratifying to support both intern supervisors and clinical supervisors, who feed off of the fresh energy and fantastic new ways that evolving professionals at earlier stages look at things. And, don’t get me started on their supervisors. The launching of the Academy has taught me over and over again about how pivotal this role is, how critical it is that systems invest in their supervisors and what powerhouses they are in their own rights. I have been thrilled this past year to create an instructional video library specifically to be used in supervision, so that supervisors and developing professionals can watch and delve into the lessons and session simulations provided. As I pause to give thanks for the remarkable social work and mental health professionals I get to come into contact with every single day, during social work month, I also celebrate those providing adoption and permanency competent clinical supervision. This is an audience we absolutely intend to serve and support through future offerings at the Academy.





As the Director of the Academy for Advancing Clinical Practice in Permanency, I am so excited to be part of this important initiative at C.A.S.E.   We’ve got the amazing and transformational power of NTI and TAC, and now the Academy, moving practice a step further, integrating knowledge from these curricula, sharpening our skills, and building a place where we professionals can continue to advance our expertise. Keep your eyes open as we are also creating new coursework and training modalities the world of adoption and permanency has not yet experienced. Thank you to all those who are participating in focus groups this month to help shape our new coursework offerings!

To evolve the Academy, we are graced with a diverse advisory board of experts in mental health, child welfare, and research as well as those with lived experience, all of whom have been donating their time and talent the last 2 years to support the development of the Academy. I will be so thrilled to announce the advanced coursework that they and other distinguished faculty will be offering later this year and open it for individual or group registration.

Audiences of Academy
Samples of advanced C.A.S.E. Academy course topics:
  • Mothering in Adoption

  • Fathering in Adoption

  • Marriage and Adoption

  • LGBTQ+ Parenting in Adoption

  • Single parenting and adoption

  • Birth family connections over the life course

  • Intersecting identities for children, youth and families

  • Clinically working with Race and Culture in Adoption

  • Kinship Caregiver Considerations

  • The Adult Adopted Person

  • Generational impacts of adoption

  • Social Media, the Internet and Adoption

  • Shame and Self Worth

Lastly, I salute the committed teamwork that is a gift, privilege and necessity inherent in adoption and permanency competency. To all social work and mental health interns, clinicians, clinical supervisors and administrators around the country working together to further adoption and permanency competent clinical practice, we thank you. I think you will all find your place at the Academy. As we celebrate social work month, I especially join C.A.S.E. in saluting our own amazing clinical department for taking the steps necessary to keep clinical knowledge, skills and support shored up. It quite an honor to accompany families on their adoption and permanency journeys, and it is my joy and privilege to get to share it with all of you!


What the Academy offers:
  • Advancing levels of coursework to match learners’ needs
  • Participation in a weekly learning cohort to similar level professionals to weave knowledge into direct practice
  • Access to a rich video library including adoption and permanency competent therapy sessions
  • Adoption and permanency competent clinical consultation to clinicians and supervisors
  • Consultations to administrators on adoption and permanency programming
  • Individual and group registration or contracts
  • Demonstrable outcome measures for growth

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