Georgia DFCS Training Staff to Manage Hostile Situations

October 19, 2015

ATLANTA– In an effort to enhance employee safety, the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) is formally training its child welfare staff on techniques for diffusing potentially dangerous situations.

These front-line social workers are being instructed in “Verbal Judo,” a tactical communication training course that teaches strategies to manage tense situations that are common in their line of work.

“This training is part of our continuing effort to help keep staff members safe as they visit families in their homes, many times at night and alone,” said DFCS Director Bobby Cagle. “They deal with families who are in crisis and under stress and with parents who may be agitated, resentful and even armed.  It is extremely important that they are skillful in de-escalating hostile interactions.”

Child welfare workers completed the training in September. Earlier this month a  “train-the-trainer” session was completed so that within a year, all 7,000 DFCS employees – including those in its Office of Family Independence and those in regional and county offices – will have received the training.

The training curriculum was developed by the Verbal Judo Institute, which serves law enforcement and government agencies, healthcare facilities, educational institutions and businesses throughout the country. Participants learn to “redirect behavior, diffuse difficult situations, and generate voluntary compliance from people not on their best behavior,” according to the program’s training material.

Implementing heightened safety measures for employees is one component of DFCS’s “Blueprint for Change,” an agency plan Cagle rolled out in February. In addition to training employees on safety strategies, DFCS is working with Georgia Tech to develop a high technology “panic button” for staff members to use while on the job. The Blueprint plan incorporates recommendations of the Child Welfare Reform Council created by Gov. Nathan Deal to address challenges facing the child-welfare system in the categories of safety, permanency and well-being.