Child Welfare League of America Making Children a National Priority


Child Welfare League of America Making Children a National Priority
About Us
Special Initiatives
News and Media Center
Research and Data
Conferences and Training
Culture and Diversity
Support CWLA
CWLA Members Only Content

Home > Consultation and Training > Trieschman Center for Consultation & Training > Workforce Development Initiative


2001 Finding Better Ways Conference Presentation Recap

Helping Staff Avoid Physical Restraint Interventions Through Supervision

Joseph K. Mullen
JKM Training, Inc.
Carlisle, PA

Direct service staff face a significant responsibility in making intervention decisions when children in care engage in acting out behavior. More than ever before these decisions are under close scrutiny by oversight and advocacy organizations. In particular, the decision to use physical restraint is being closely monitored. Caught between what appears to be an ever increasing level of misbehavior by youth and the increasing level of expectations regarding intervention decisions, frontline staff can feel abandoned. These feelings are multiplied when they make the decision to use physical restraint in behavior management situations and are subjected to an after-action review process that is tinted negatively with questions about judgement and competency.

While training helps to equip staff with methods and strategies that can be used with mis-behaving youth, skill development and confidence in this performance area requires active supervision. Traditionally, supervisors have responded to staff performance difficulties in this area with reactive or corrective strategies. Helping staff to develop the skills necessary to reduce their use of physical restraint requires supervisors to become more pro-active and performance motivation oriented.

Helping Staff Avoid Physical Restraint Interventions Through Supervision

The development of a consistent supervision strategy regarding staff intervention with misbehaving youth must become a priority for all supervisors of frontline staff. Too often agencies rely on staff training to generate behavior intervention skills. When staff return from training equipped with newly learned skills, little follow up by supervisors may be available. Staff are left on their own to integrate learned concepts and skills with the reality of the youth in care.

We have developed a four-step supervision strategy that employs pro-active supervision, performance coaching and after-action follow up and have deployed it to raise the intervention skill level of staff from novice to professional. The strategy begins with setting an expectation with employees regarding their use of the training experience. Thereafter, supervisors must consciously reinforce the fundamental concepts of the training program (e.g., judgement regarding the use of physical restraint) and must work to create an outcome vision with all staff regarding crisis intervention performance. This shared vision becomes the motivational vehicle that helps to govern individual decision-making. The second step requires supervisors to actively engage in performance coaching with staff during actual incidents. This coaching greatly facilitates the transfer of learning to the treatment setting. When incidents have concluded, the supervisor's role moves to performance review and sometimes correction. Conducting the corrective interview is a supervisory task that requires specific skills. When supervisors handle this very important interview correctly, the outcome can lead to significant performance improvement. Finally, the supervisor must actively evaluate unit performance. This task allows performance to be reflected in re-shaping the outcome vision. This strategic process can become the supervision plan to be applied within the agency.


The development of skilled frontline staff who are confident in their ability to work with children when they are misbehaving requires a combination of staff training and supervision. Once training has occurred, supervisors must become actively involved with staff to insure the desired outcome. To achieve significantly improved staff performance, the supervisory effort must be comprehensive and pro-active.


Banks, L., & Halasz, I. M. (1999). Motivating: Helping staff achieve peak performance. Lantham, MD: American Media, Inc. and ACA.

Mullen, J. K. (2000). The physical restraint controversy. Reclaiming Children and Youth: The Journal of Strength Based Interventions. Austin TX: Pro-Ed.

Contact Information

Joseph K. Mullen, MSW President
JKM Training, Inc.
36 South Pitt Street
Carlisle, Pa. 17013
Phone: 717.960.0457
Fax: 717.960.0458

 Back to Top   Printer-friendly Page Printer-friendly Page   Contact Us Contact Us




About Us | Special Initiatives | Advocacy | Membership | News & Media Center | Practice Areas | Support CWLA
Research/Data | Publications | Webstore | Conferences/Training | Culture/Diversity | Consultation/Training

All Content and Images Copyright Child Welfare League of America. All Rights Reserved.
See also Legal Information, Privacy Policy, Browser Compatibility Statement

CWLA is committed to providing equal employment opportunities and access for all individuals.
No employee, applicant for employment, or member of the public shall be discriminated against
on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or
any other personal characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law.