Keeping It Real: Simulation Experience
What Does the Simulation Experience Look Like?
While simulation training may look different in different places, a common thread is to create realistic scenarios of child welfare work. For example, a simulation lab may mimic:
- An investigator’s first knock on the door of a family’s home in response to a report of suspected child maltreatment (watch “Practicing in a Safe Space”)
- An interview with medical personnel to discuss physical evidence in a case (watch “A Medical Sim Lab”)
- A presentation of findings in family court (watch “A Court Sim Lab”)
A Court Sim Lab
“I get to help [new investigators], critique them, and try to make them the best witnesses they can be, so they can give the judge in these type of hearings the information they need to make the right decision.” – Retired Judge, Illinois
Onsite, in-person simulation supports powerful interactions and experiential learning that feels real.
- Simulation environments—whether a rented house, an auditorium stage, or a hotel room—are typically filled with objects that evoke a child welfare worker’s experience.
- Settings can be tailored to the surrounding communities.
- The roles of families and community partners may be played by actors, trainers, medical professionals, former or current judges and attorneys, or others who respond to verbal and nonverbal communication.
Watch “Home Environment” to learn more about creating realistic home settings.
Simulation Training: Home Environment
“There are little safety hazards that maybe people wouldn’t think about, things like plastic bags in the reach of a small child or pill bottles that a child might be able to get into, things like that that make it really real.” – Simulation Facilitator, University of Illinois Springfield
Debriefing and receiving feedback are a critical part of the simulation learning experience. During an onsite debrief, trainers and participants can stop and examine what is happening at key moments:
- How did the family member respond to the investigator’s energy or an inadvertent eye roll?
- Did something in the environment serve as a trigger to the participant?
- Did the participant miss important questions?
Watch “Debriefing and Feedback” to learn more.
Simulation Training: Debrief and Feedback
“To be able to point out, when you said that, you got a reaction from the family that maybe you weren’t as cued into …. Being able to connect the dots in the moment, I think that’s why the debrief and feedback are so important.” – Director, Child Protection Training Academy
Virtual simulation in a digital environment can serve as an alternative to in-person, onsite simulation. Participants can complete practice scenarios and receive feedback on devices, multiple times if needed, without travel. For a virtual reality sample, watch the “Virtual Home Simulation video” from the University of Utah College of Social Work. To learn more, listen to Child Welfare Information Gateway’s virtual reality podcast.
This site features videos and interviews with representatives from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Child Protection Training Academy at the University of Illinois at Springfield, the Children and Family Research Center, and simulation training actors and community professionals. (Find out more about the Illinois simulation training program and its evaluation.)
Additional Resources on Simulation Training
Access these resources to learn more about onsite and virtual simulation programs.
- Child Welfare Virtual Expo 2018, Session 4. Simulation Innovations: It’s Not Just Role Play Anymore. Capacity Building Center for States. (2018). [Video].
- Podcast Episode 43: Virtual Reality–The Next Stage of Caseworker Training. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). [Podcast].
- Mind the Gap #2: Simulation Labs for Child Welfare Training and Education. National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. (2015). [Webinar and learning exchange].
- Moving from procedure to practice: A statewide child protection simulation training model. Journal of Public Child Welfare. (2020). [Journal article].
- Program evaluation reports for the Child Protection Training Academy. Illinois Children and Family Research Center. [Evaluation reports].