CM Supervision v.1

Welcome! The purpose of this short course is to provide you with a brief introduction to Child Protection Case Management Supervision in line with the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (2012).

Course details:

Credit: This pre-training coursework was developed by Sara Lim Bertrand and Kristen Castrataro. Colleen Fitzgerald, Lauren Steil, and Laura Evans provided invaluable feedback in the development of this coursework. Special thanks goes to Terre des hommes and CELCIS at the University of Strathclyde for sharing Childhub's course content with us. Special thanks also goes to Kiryn Lanning and Alyssia Dobrescu for developing some of the supervision case studies.

Introduction to the e-Course

Pre-check: Have you completed the previous e-learning course on the IA Guidelines on Case Management and Child Protection

  • Yes
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Q&As: Learning Platform

  • How will my work be saved? When you start working through the course, your progress will be saved automatically per browser. 
  • What should I do if I need to take a break while working through the course? Click on the Take a Break and Continue Later button to ensure that your progress will be saved in the browser you are using. So if you reopen the course later, it will re-start where you last left it.
  • How do I submit my work once I am finished? Click on the Submit Results button to finish the course. After that, the course will start all over.
  • Who should I contact if I have other questions related to the pre-training coursework? Ask Sara at

Course Outline

There are two main sections:  

Section 1.1Definition of Supervision

This section serves to introduce the definition of supervision, its three functions, and their related responsibilities.  Case studies provide an opportunity to apply the theory to real-life situations.  This section will be useful for new supervisors, managers, and advisors.  

Section 1.2Types of Supervision

This section explores the three types of supervision and the ways in which they both differ and work together to support caseworkers.  A case study gives new supervisors, managers, and advisors an opportunity to reflect on which type of supervision would be most helpful in a particular case.  

Module 1: Introducing Supervision

Module Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to: 

  • Define supervision
  • Identify the different functions and types of supervision
  • Identify the responsibilities associated with different supervisory functions
  • Apply the functions and types of supervision to sample, real-life situations

Module Summary

“Supervision is a relationship that supports the caseworker’s technical competence and practice, promotes well-being and enables effective and supportive monitoring of casework” (Guidelines pg. 42).  This relationship serves three functions: administrative, development, and support; each function has unique responsibilities.  

Each type supports certain supervisory functions and not others.  In a case management context, the supervisor is responsible for identifying their caseworkers’ needs and addressing them using the appropriate supervisory types and functions.  

1.1 Definition of Supervision

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  1. Examine the functions of supervision
  2. Outline the responsibilities of the supervisor

The Guidelines (pg. 42) states, “Supervision is a relationship that supports the caseworker’s technical competence and practice, promotes well-being and enables effective and supportive monitoring of casework.”  Effective supervision helps to improve work with children and families, so they should always remain at the heart of the process.

Supervision serves three primary, interdependent, functions:  

  1. Administrative functions: accountability, quality control, administrative
  2. Development functions: educational, professional development
  3. Support functions: emotional and psychological support of your staff

Research shows that supervision works best when it provides practical task assistance and social/emotional support in the context of a positive supervisory relationship. Underpinning this is the need for an organisational climate that encourages and supports supervision and the rights of the child.









Some of the main responsibilities associated with the administrative function are:

  • Identify, manage, and evaluate the performance of the caseworker
  • Recruit, select, train (or arrange for training), and retain staff
  • Facilitate communication and collaboration
  • Manage time and workloads for practitioners
  • Monitor the practitioner’s responsibilities to the supervisor
  • Provide leadership to the practitioner or team for whom you work
  • Anticipate, address, and manage change for those for whom you are responsible









Some of the main responsibilities associated with the development function are:

  • Case review and learning from experience
  • Promote practitioners’ self-reflective practice, critical thinking and decision-making
  • Develop the cultural competence of practitioners
  • Promote ongoing professional development opportunities for practitioners (e.g. training, coaching, mentoring etc)
  • Assist practitioners in applying learning from training, workshops, etc.
  • Seek ongoing professional development for yourself as a supervisor
  • Promote evidence-informed practice









The main responsibilities associated with the support function are:

  • Prevent/address stress, primary and secondary trauma, and burnout by monitoring the overall health and emotional well-being of the practitioner
  • Anticipate and manage risk to ensure safety of practitioners
  • Create a safe climate for the practitioner to reflect on his/her practice and its impact on him/her and provide constructive feedback
  • Debrief and support practitioners who are subjected to any form of abuse (e.g. physical, emotional or discriminatory) from children and young people, families, or colleagues
  • Help the practitioner to reflect upon any interpersonal difficulties and to resolve conflicts
  • Value the practitioner both as a professional and a person

Case study one: Exercising the administrative function

Theresa has been working as a child protection case worker for six months with a new organization. The work is very challenging both in terms of the work itself – providing mobile case management services to children in an urban conflict setting - and getting used to a new organization with new procedures and policies. 

She is not new to casework and was a practicing social worker before the conflict broke out, but adjusting to this emergency context and learning new approaches to working has definitely been a challenge for her. Her strengths are in her engagement and interactions with the children she supports, and she has received praise for this from clients and supportive relatives of the children. 

Theresa recognizes that she struggles under “all the paper work” and often leaves it for when she has the time, which is rare as she devotes most of her time and energy for the practical side of her work with children. She has been reminded about making sure her case files and paperwork are in order, and she insists she understands their importance and will find the time to do it.  When she does complete her reports, she does it well.

This pattern has been going on a while now and, as her supervisor, you invite her for a supervision session ahead of the scheduled one to provide her with concrete feedback on her performance, through which you will address this issue with her and work on finding a solution together. 

Directions: Reflect on how you would respond to this supervision issue. Choose the answer that would most closely demonstrate how the administrative function may be used.

  • a. Tell Theresa that she is to be reported to higher management as she is not carrying out her duties
  • b. In an individual session with Theresa, raise your concerns about her record keeping by noting your observations. Brainstorm together the potential impact to children of not maintaining documentation, and the challenges Theresa is facing. Develop a plan together, including an agreed timeframe.
  • c. Explore with Theresa the reasons why she is not keeping the records up to date, using your active listening and empathy skills.

Case study two: Exercising the support function

Your organization is the only child protection service provider in a small town and community. It is a fairly remote location with a history of armed conflict and many cases of children surviving sexual violence and being forcibly recruited to fight.  The context remains very fragile and is a highly intense environment to work in. 

Amina started working there just over a year ago and is an experienced child protection case worker, the most senior member of the team. She has been a driving force behind the child protection program and brings with her energy, commitment and passion for what she does. Her fellow case worker doesn’t yet have the capacity to take on a full caseload or complex cases. As a result, Amina’s caseload has increased, including a few very stressful cases that she took the lead on wholeheartedly. She is working long hours every day and going into the weekends to keep up with her cases and provide some peer support to her other colleague. She is also long overdue for her leave. 

Over the last few weeks, Amina has become very irritable and quickly gets annoyed with other staff members, which is unlike her. Other staff have noticed that she looks very tired, as if she were not sleeping. The other caseworker also noted that Amina has even been abrupt with some clients. Concerned, you approach Amina to see how she is doing.  She becomes dismissive, saying: “Everything is fine.” 

Directions: Reflect on how would you deal with this supervision issue in supervision. Choose the answer that most closely demonstrates how the supporty function may be used.  

  • a. Explain gently to Amina that you think she needs some more time off. You tell her that you will be speaking to higher management about this.
  • b. Explore with Amina the reasons why she is behaving the way she is. Explain to her that you have had similar experiences like this and that it is perfectly normal. Try not to make her feel like a failure. Remind her that she is an excellent worker and that everyone is concerned about her.
  • c. Feedback to Amina what your impressions of her change in work behaviour have been. Encourage Amina to reflect on this and explore the reasons for her feelings. Allow her time to express herself and be accepting of what she says without any judgement. Provide any re-assurance needed, and negotiate how the agency can best support her through this.

Case study three: Exercising the development function

You are the case worker supervisor overseeing a team of four child protection case workers who range in experience from a few months to over 3 years.  You work out of a center in a large town in a very volatile humanitarian context.

Angelina is one of the newest caseworkers on the team and is starting to receive cases which are challenging for her, presenting very different and complex issues and needs. She is a very quick learner and keen to gain knowledge from her peers. She is willing to take the cases she receives. 

In her first few months, however, you notice that her written assessments are not very good. They have no depth and little in the way of assessment of risk. She tends to write in very academic language. She is keen to learn and colleagues report that she is a very likeable young woman. However, they also note that she is not contributing helpfully to case discussions due to her overuse of academic jargon. 

Directions: Reflect on how would you deal with this supervision issue. Choose the answer that most closely demonstrates how the development function may be used. 

  • a. Ask Angelina about her experience of carrying out and writing assessments, what she actually does in the process, and to reflect on what she finds difficult and easy. Ask her to explain her understanding of the use and content of assessments. Give her your feedback about the issues as you see them, and discuss this with her. Arrange to show her some completed assessments by colleagues and also arrange for her to shadow a senior caseworker. Agree to review a revised assessment together in the next individual supervision meeting in two weeks.
  • b. Tell Angelina exactly how to improve her assessment reports. Also suggest to Angelina that she listens more in case discussion meetings because you are aware that she may learn much from her experienced colleagues in this setting.
  • c. Explore with Angelina her feelings about carrying out assessments. When she tells you she is afraid of messing up, sympathise with her and tell her not to be concerned. She is a new practitioner, and you feel it is important to make sure she doesn’t have her confidence harmed in the early stages. Put some time aside to show Angelina what to write in assessments and how to structure them.

1.2 Types of Supervision

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  1. Explore the characteristics of three types of supervision which apply best to child protection and care
  2. Reflect on how to apply the types of supervision to different circumstances








Individual meetings between a practitioner and a supervisor are the most helpful context for supervision. Individual supervision provides a safe space for the person being supervised to be heard and to be able, without fear, to share his/her ideas, feelings and questions.  

In some parts of the region, individual supervision is provided only after being requested by the practitioner, instead of being offered by the agency on a regular basis. If possible, this should be challenged, and regular supervision should be established.   

Individual supervision is:

  • a meeting between two people that requires structure, consistency, and a sense of safety for the practitioner in order to be successful
  • regularly scheduled (e.g., 1 hour per week at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays)
  • conducted in a place that ensures privacy and protection from interruption
  • the most effective way to provide all three functions of supervision
  •  a context in which supervisors should feel comfortable to review and evaluate cases and work; provide constructive feedback, guidance and direction on approaches used; share information and advice to promote development of the practitioner; and apply their skills of active listening, empathic responding and genuine concern to ensure that the practitioner feels supported.








Group supervision brings a group of practitioners together. It is:

  • led by the supervisor who must structure the meeting effectively
  • economical in terms of the supervisor’s time
  • can be used for case consultation, building self-awareness, and education
  • an excellent addition to individual formal supervision but should not be a substitute as it cannot meet all three functions of supervision for each individual practitioner.








Working with children and families is unpredictable. There will be crises or issues which come up and can’t be kept for formal supervision meetings. This may lead to the need for ad-hoc or informal or supervision. In some parts of the region, this type of supervision is most often provided in severe cases or incidents within structures that do not have formal, regular supervision. 

Ad-hoc supervision is:

  • responsive to the immediate needs of the worker
  • usually a short discussion about one issue or crisis
  • unprepared
  • helpful when there is a need for immediate advice or consultation
  • not a substitute for individual formal supervision.  If a supervisor uses this method as a primary means of supervision, the same cases or issues tend to be discussed continuously, and other cases or issues are not given any consideration until they, too, become a crisis.

Connection and linkages between types of supervision

The table below illustrates the possible connections between different types of supervision.  Within this, you may find a system which is suitable for your agency. You need not have all types; the approach developed should suit the circumstances of your agency and work practice.

Case study: Selecting the appropriate type of supervision required

Halima has been working as a child protection case worker in a refugee camp for 3 months, and she is seeing new arrivals to the camp on a regular basis as the conflict continues. This is her first role like this; previously she had been involved in psychosocial support and recreational activities for children and had volunteered at one of the schools in the camp. 

Halima brings her case files to every supervision session for discussion with you as her supervisor. She presents each case very descriptively, describing all the details. She always requests direction from you on what she should do next on every case. If you ask Halima what she feels she should do, she looks blankly at you and often deflects back to you as if you have all the solutions. 

In the last couple of weeks, Halima has received more cases. In the latest supervision session with Halima, she seems anxious about her work load, especially one really complex case which she says has really troubled her where the perpetrator, the child’s father, is very angry. She tells you in detail that she spent all week on that one case “going back and forth” but is frustrated because there has not been any progress. She asked you what she should do.

Discussion: Reflect on what type of supervision and which supervision functions would best support the caseworker