Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System

Youth Care Professional Foundation Training

The offerings below are the suite of short, online courses to introduce youth work and present practical strategies for providing care in congregate settings. Each course is 30-90 minutes long and can be started and stopped as needed.

Each offering also includes learning activities that can be used to stimulate discussion and/or apply course material in your homes or facilities. These materials can be used individually, by staff teams, and/or by supervisors in team meetings.

PDS Online

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Introduction to Youth Care Professional Work

Introduction to youth work focusing on the roles and responsibilities of a youth worker in a “culture of care”

  • Developer of structure and ritual
  • Nurturer
  • Manager of daily tasks
  • Provider of experiences that build on competencies
  • Advocate with/for youth
  • Leader and facilitator
  • Provider of therapeutic interventions (more trauma-informed and nurturing than clinical)

A Trauma-Informed Approach to Cultural Intelligence and Healing

  • Introduces trauma-informed approach and cultural responsiveness
  • Explains how 6 Guiding Principles to a Trauma Informed Approach can be accomplished in youth care settings

Trauma has emerged as an important topic because it has long-term adverse effects on physical and mental health. Individuals in our communities and organizations experience trauma in complex ways. When youth work professionals interact with traumatized youth and families, they may experience the negative effects of secondary trauma. If you truly want trauma-informed care you need a holistic view that involves everyone in your community, your organization, and all levels of your staff. All youth workers need to be trauma-informed and culturally intelligent to effectively engage with each other and with young people.

Bringing a trauma-informed approach to your programs offers stronger supports for both you and the young people you serve. Building your cultural intelligence skills will help you be a youth worker that bridges the gap between school or program and home, considering past and current trauma while wholly assisting youth in programming to become productive adults. Youth workers that can foster resiliency also nurture hope and healing for themselves and young people.

This training will deepen your understanding of how trauma-informed practices, toxic stress, cultural dynamics, and maintaining your well-being can be a practical approach to cultural competence. You’ll learn what Cultural Intelligence is and how you can apply it in your work to build resilience and support well-being for yourself and young people.

Calming Challenging Behaviors

  • Takes a brain development/brain function approach to explaining escalated behavior
  • Focuses on concrete, practical strategies for avoiding escalations and calming them when they occur

One of the most challenging experiences for adults who work with youth is trying to deal with those super-charged situations when a young person’s behavior seems explosive; defiant, disruptive, disrespectful, possibly even dangerous. You may not know what set them off but you do understand that anxiety and anger can get triggered by even minor irritations. It’s uncomfortable for you and the youth and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or frustrated when nothing seems to work.
Understanding the ‘brain on fire’ reactions that drive anger, anxiety, and power struggles is the foundation for interventions that calm challenging behaviors. Learning to use effective connection strategies, you can help young people articulate what’s going on inside. And you can share these tools and strategies with parents as well to support more positive interactions outside of your program.
This training offers a practical approach, grounded in brain science, mindfulness, and positive youth development. Discover how to calm intense behavior in the youth you serve, and gain ways to communicate with parents that will help motivate them to build on the work you do in your program to support their youth. Having more knowledge and skills to avoid frustration and stress will reenergize you for this important work.

Follow this link to view the training.

Calming Challenging Behaviors Learning Activities

Motivational Interviewing in Youth Work

  • Applies MI principles to youth work situations

Even when a young person might recognize their behavior as self-destructive, making change is never easy. They may get lots of good advice and guidance and still struggle to change. It’s human nature to be resistant to imposed change, even if that change is for the better. But when the change is defined by them, in their voice, making change is easier to achieve. Getting in touch with their inner motivations and values will help them explore and resolve their ambivalence to change.

Youth work is all about supporting positive change. The rapport you build as a youth worker puts you in an ideal position to use Motivational Interviewing skills. Rather than giving advice or instruction, you’ll be able to have collaborative conversations. Respecting their desire for autonomy will enhance their self-esteem and build self-confidence to develop a better decision-making process and make positive choices that support their health and well-being.

Learn about the main concepts of Motivational Interviewing. You’ll gain tools for initiating change talk to help the young people you serve define and reach their goals. You’ll learn how to assess their readiness for change. Motivational Interviewing is a collaborative, youth-centered approach to strengthen a person’s own motivation and commitment to change. Every youth worker needs this skill set!


Caregiver Training: Understanding Child Sex Trafficking in Wisconsin

  • Presents risk factors and dynamics of trafficking
  • Presents strategies for effective caregiver response
  • Based in WI laws and procedures

Sex trafficking of children is a growing concern nationally and in Wisconsin. Sex trafficking of minors has been identified, investigated and charged in most, if not all, counties within Wisconsin. It is both an urban and rural issue.

This course is designed to provide caregivers with information about what child sex trafficking is and how children are recruited and trafficked. As a caregiver, you have a unique and special role to play in caring and healing for those that have been or are vulnerable to sex trafficking. In these six modules, you will learn about the:

  • Scope of child sex trafficking;
  • Dynamics of child sex trafficking;
  • Factors that increase a child’s vulnerability to trafficking;
  • Indicators that a child has been trafficked;
  • The experience of leaving sex trafficking;
  • Strategies to use to reduce child vulnerabilities to trafficking;
  • Steps to be taken if it is suspected that a child placed in your home has been involved in or is at-risk of sex trafficking; and
  • Where to find additional resources.

Directions to View Modules:
Click here to watch the six modules in this series.

LGBTQ Foundations: Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills

  • Intro to dimensions of gender/sexuality identity and expression
  • Reviews/explains terminology
  • Information/strategies for responding to transitioning, coming out and discussing sexual/gender identity with youth in affirming ways (including responding to homophobic comments)

LGBTQ youth experience various challenges because of how others respond to their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. When others respond negatively, including insensitive statements, it can lead to a disconnection from family, school, and the broader community. Without these connections, LGBTQ youth are at risk for situations and relationships that can be detrimental for their physical and emotional well-being today and in the years to come.
By being inclusive to the LGBTQ community, youth programs can help provide that vital sense of connection and support. The first step is for youth workers to understand the LGBTQ community. Developing an awareness and understanding of the challenges facing LGBTQ youth is just a starting point. It also means youth workers must continually hone their own self-awareness to recognize and check their biases. You, as a youth worker, need a safe resource to provide answers to questions that can often be difficult to ask out of fear of offending others or appearing to be prejudiced.
This training will provide you with an understanding of terminology that will help define the LGBTQ experience as well as give you an awareness of when and how to use this sort of vocabulary appropriately. You’ll explore how privilege impacts the LGBTQ community. You’ll be challenged to think about barriers and opportunities within your organization in creating more inclusive programs. And you will walk away with a deeper understanding of the LGBTQ community and items to consider when identifying ways your organization can best support LGBTQ youth as they interact with others in your program and in other environments.

Youth and Technology

  • Takes a balanced (pros and cons) view of technology and use of it by youths
  • Includes useful information and terminology
  • Divided into short sections with brief quizzes and videos