Leading With Empathy

Learn to be more intentional about creating opportunities to relate to the staff and families you serve and to infuse more empathy into your agency.

Publication year: 2020
Capacity Building Center for States

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This short, animated video follows the storyline of a child welfare leader riding along with a caseworker as she visits families. Along the way, the leader gains a deeper understanding of the pain, fear, concerns, and joy that workers and families experience and then shares what he has learned with the community. The story demonstrates the importance of creating opportunities to listen to staff and the families they serve.

Reflect and Act

Watch the video, then explore these quotes, questions, and prompts by yourself or with your team. Use in one-on-one or group coaching, in supervision, or in a meeting as a conversation starter to look at issues and concerns, validate feelings, build support, and seek solutions together. Create a safe space for leaders, staff, and stakeholders to be vulnerable and share their responses with each other.

Get Back to Your Roots

Think back to early in your career. How did acts of empathy help you? Can you think of instances when empathy was lacking? What would have helped?
How can modeling empathy create a ripple effect to influence relationships between supervisors and staff? Between frontline workers and families? Between parents and their children? How does this help us serve our community?

Empower People to Do What They're Trained and They Know to Do

How can you elevate the voices of people you work with? How can leaders learn more about the day-to-day realities of frontline work? What are the risks of not learning more?
Where do you see people working from a place of empathy in your agency? How can you amplify this?
When do you listen to the people you lead? When do your leaders and managers listen to you? How can you make more opportunities to do both?
What barriers prevent leaders from hearing the voices of staff and the families they serve? What steps can you take to remove these barriers?

These Things Don't Have Office Hours

The video presents issues common to many child welfare agencies. Identify relatable concerns, then discuss with others to gain a mutual understanding and validate feelings. Use the opportunity to work together to develop a few steps toward finding solutions.

  • Worker safety
  • Biases around poverty leading to over-removal of children
  • Rural child welfare practice
  • Community engagement
  • Protective factors
  • Worker resilience
  • Leadership support

Suggested Citation

Capacity Building Center for States (2020). Leading With Empathy. Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Capacity Building Center for States.

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