Working Together to Support a Strong Child Welfare Workforce by Lorienda Schmidt (Cohort 9)
When I was asked to write this post about turnover in the child welfare system, I first went to the ECCP blog to read the installments by Tami Havener and Kristina Mueller for some inspiration and guidance. What I found was a reminder of how similar the challenges are between the early care and education and child welfare systems. Re-read their blogs and replace each instance of “teacher” or “educator” with “child welfare caseworker;” you’ll find that everything they say about turnover in early care and education applies to child welfare:
- Children thrive with consistent and stable adults in their life;
- Many communities lack an effective, consistent workforce in whom families can place their trust;
- Over time, there are increasing state regulations for both caseworker qualifications and job expectations;
- We consistently lose good caseworkers to better paying, less demanding jobs; and,
- We need to recruit, retain, compensate, and support the child welfare workforce.
A cross-systems work group within the Colorado Department of Human Services recently released recommendations for system-level change that may prevent maltreatment in children five and under. The group recognized the importance of cross-systems collaboration, but also acknowledged that high turnover is the biggest barrier. The following is an excerpt from their final report:
“When rates of turnover are high, individual agencies are constantly recruiting, hiring, and training new staff, while also covering vacant position workloads. These activities render professionals unable to engage in the relationship-building that supports cross-system collaboration. In addition, the cost of worker turnover is staggering. The Applied Research in Child Welfare (ARCH) at Colorado State University is in the process of analyzing 10 years of child welfare employment data across Colorado. From 2005-2015, seven of the ten largest Colorado counties had an average turnover rate of 29.7% within intake teams, with a total of 648 workers leaving intake positions over the 10 year period (ARCH, draft, 2016). With a conservative estimate of $54,000 per new hire (NCWII, 2016), this has cost Colorado over $35 million dollars in the last ten years in only seven of Colorado’s 64 counties.”
Just like in early care and education, turnover in child welfare is an urgent matter. We all work with the same families and ultimately have the same desire: for children to thrive in their homes and in their communities. How can we learn from one another? How can we share limited resources to support a high-quality, consistent work force across the various sectors of the early childhood system?