How It Came To Be

Reflective Supervision Collaborative


The Reflective Supervision Collaborative (RSC) is a collective endeavor focused on building long term diversity, equity, and inclusion-informed learning collaboratives, resources, and approaches to support the growth of reflective supervisors, change agents, leaders, mentors, and trainers prepared to sustain meaningful levels of reflective supervision, reflective practice and leadership in their institutions. Now a national collaborative, the scope and vision of the RSC began modestly. Recognizing the need for more training in reflective supervision, Mary Claire Heffron and Kadija Johnston, both staff at Bay Area programs whose training efforts were supported in part by the Irving Harris Foundation, envisioned a regional expansion capitalizing on the longevity and success of their programs. Identifying a similar need on the East Coast, Rebecca Shahmoon Shanok, asked to join forces. At Rebecca’s urging the bicoastal proposal quickly expanded to a national purview. Over the next few years, the three colleagues elaborated and honed a broader vision while continuing to work on learning projects in their respective regions.


In 2016, a private donor funded the RSC’s request for a multi-day meeting of leaders in the field of reflective supervision to discuss the feasibility of a national project. The charge to the group was to lay out and bring forward a unified description of what would be needed to prepare the next generation of reflective supervisors and leaders.


Over the course of the three-day convocation held March 6-8, 2016* the rich and at times conflictual discourse among leaders in reflective supervision from across the United States yielded agreement to endorse a project that would train not only supervisors, but leaders, change agents, mentors and other trainers of reflective supervision in order to create local sustainability. There was consensus about the need for cultivating well-qualified reflective supervisors and leaders for the increasing numbers of diverse infant and early childhood programs emerging to address unmet needs. The group agreed that the learning project would:


  • Integrate relational, developmental, multidisciplinary, and diverse perspectives at all levels.
  • Use a relationship-based approach and be carried out over time in longer-term processes with ample opportunity for learning, reflection, supported practice, and application.
  • Integrate research at all levels.
  • Integrate the Diversity Tenets at the heart of Reflective Supervision training.
  • Infuse a trauma-informed approach.
  • Create a sense of safety, openness, trust, and bravery, one where deep listening and welcoming of diverse experiences, perspectives, prevails.
  • Acknowledge and embrace the nonlinearity of professional growth and development for both supervisor and supervisee, welcoming missteps, blunders, and ruptures as opportunities to exercise the muscle of repair in strengthening relationships.
  • Use advanced technology and possibly social media to support new trainees and trainers who will get the best of knowledge and process into as many systems, programs and providers effectively and more quickly than the field is able to do at this point.
  • The longer-term vision of the RSC was to become a national resource for the dissemination and support of long-term learning about reflective supervision and leadership as well as to a resource, think tank for these practices, and a convener of professionals interested in strengthening these practices.


Additionally, in this first meeting, a decision was made to have Rebecca Shahmoon Shanok and Mary Claire Heffron chair these efforts and begin to explore funding and action possibilities. The group continued to meet at opportunistic times such as ZERO TO THREE National Conferences.


In 2017 the RSC was invited to submit a long-term learning proposal. The proposal was funded by the Perigee Foundation who continues to support the work of the RSC Collaborative. Diane Reynolds was hired as the Project Manager and a second meeting was held March 6-8, 2018 to construct a work plan to move the project forward. In March 2020 as project development was nearing completion and a pilot site had been identified, the project suffered a devastating blow. Rebecca Shahmoon Shanok died suddenly and unexpectedly. The loss, coupled with a welcomed challenge from the project’s funder to more deeply and authentically infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion principles and practices into the work led to a momentary pause and needed recalibration.


As an initial step, a panel of five seasoned reflective supervision professionals, all women of color, did a detailed and exhaustive review of the RSC learning collaborative project materials. The reviewers were asked to assess the materials for adherence to and promotion of standards in reflective supervision in the infant and early childhood mental health field. In addition, the reviewers specifically examined how the materials supported content related to learning about concepts of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. They were asked to comment on the materials in terms of addressing structural racism, power imbalances and other inequities that pervade the field. Each reviewer completed a full assessment and these findings were reviewed and subsequently discussed in meetings with the reviewers. Initially, as reviewers and subsequently as four additional RSC members, these individuals became powerful catalysts in a transformation of the project. Specifically, in a re-envisioning of the approaches related to infusion of principles of diversity, equity and inclusion into this long term learning collaborative approach devoted to expanding the numbers of solidly prepared supervisors, leaders, mentors, and change agents prepared to help programs, organizations and systems fully embrace reflective supervision and practice. This process has individually and collectively engaged RSC members in critical self–reflection and analysis of the practices, processes and materials previously developed and has opened up the creativity of all to re-envision and re-design the project processes and materials.


Collectively and as a way to go forward, a document called “Reflective Perspectives and Processes for The Whole Job and the Whole Organization” was developed as a roadmap for the developers and future participants. Since these revisions are happening in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the RSC was also asked to adapt the revised materials to a virtual delivery format instead of the original hybrid model which used on-site learning sessions with a series of virtual mentoring circles for the applied practice aspects of the learning collaborative activities.


From its inception in 2012, the RSC founding members recognized the dearth of diversity among themselves as a deficit. There was an appreciation that BIPOC supervisors and leaders are essential to developing and sustaining quality services for infants, young children and families, however, the Reflective Supervision Collaborative is now more fully cognizant that to do this well it is essential to include more diverse voices and to elevate their prominence in the endeavor. The aspirational aim to infuse notions of diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice solidly into the practice of reflective supervision continues to inform the direction and decisions of the RSC. This vision has been substantially expanded, refined, and embodied in 2020-21 as social and political events underscored the essential nature of these needed changes.


The RSC is currently focusing on completing materials for the fall 2021 launch of a learning collaborative entitled “Reflective Supervision for the Whole Job and the Whole Organization.” In addition, members are refining the long-term vision and mission statements and projected activities and future partners. The Reflective Supervision Collaborative continues to be supported by the Perigee Foundation and has established a fiscal sponsorship with Southwest Human Development.


*Founding members of the Reflective Supervision Collaborative present at the 2016 and 2018 multi-day convocations include: Linda Gilkerson, Brenda Jones Hardin, Mary Claire Heffron, Sherry Scott Heller, Kadija Johnston, Trudi Murch, Rebecca Shamoon Shanok, Christopher Watson and Deborah Weatherston. Elaine Geller was present as consultant and note-taker in March 2016 and Diane Reynolds was present as the project manager in the March 2018 meeting. Current members of the Reflective Supervision Collaborative include: Deborrah Bremond, Linda Gilkerson, Mary Claire Heffron, Sherry Scott Heller, Kadija Johnston, Alicia Martinez, Carmen Rosa Norona, Trudi Murch, Diane Reynolds, Salam Soliman, Christopher Watson and Deborah Weatherston.

For questions or to receive more information about the Reflective Supervision Collaborative, please email [email protected].

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