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.

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?


We are excited to announce the 10th BECLP Cohort for 2017-18! 

Please welcome this amazing group of EC professionals as they prepare for their Buell learning journey!

 Danielle Charron, Pedagogista; OPENair Academy at Stanley

 Cristal Cisneros, Child Family Educator; Clayton Early Learning

 Stephanie Gianneschi, Director; The Cottage Preschool, Aspen School District

 Niki Gill Adams, Executive Director of Child Care Licensing; IREE: Institute for Racial Equity and Excellence

 Erika Grimes, Teacher Leader; Stedman Elementary, Denver Public Schools

 Eva Hathaway, Newcomer Kindergarten Teacher; Isabella Bird Community School

 Lauren Heintz, Manager, Policy and Advocacy; Clayton Early Learning

 Matt Hill, Early Childhood Special Educator; Mapleton K-8, Boulder Valley School District

 Lauren Jassil, MSW, LCSW, IMH-E (1), Manager, Early Childhood Services and Autism Program; Community Reach Center

 Jamara Knight, Family Recruitment; Family Star Montessori School

 Lesa Nesbit, Early Childhood Coordinator; Families First

 Meri Nofzinger, Principal; The Center for Family Learning

 Katie Poston, Project Coordinator; Early Milestones Colorado

 Callan Quiram, Early Education Academic Partner; Denver Public Schools

 Kelley Rodriquez, Career Development Director; Early Connections

 Joan Scheuerman, Early Childhood Special Educator; Thompson School District

 Christina Simmons, Executive Director/Principal; Maslow Academy of Applied Learning and Bright Beginnings Preschool

 Sherri Valdez, Executive Director; Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley

 Kelly Wilson, Coordinator, QRIS and CCR&R; Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Early Childhood

 Meg Yoder, Director of Advancement; Paddington Station Preschool


Mark your calendars for the BECLN Retreat/BECLP Symposium, July 13th-15th.  It will be a great celebration as we personally greet this 10th Cohort, welcome the 9th Cohort to the BECLN and meet and mingle as our ever-growing Buell Alumni Network!  It's gonna be fun!!  

As members of the BECLN family, we want to give you all the opportunity to honor our wonderful colleague Erin Binford.  Please see the attachment below to learn more about how you can personally honor Erin in your thoughts and deeds.  

Image result for rmecc conferenceCalling all Buellies who will be attending The Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference (RMECC), March 17th & 18th to join your Buell Early Childhood Leadership Network at fellow-led workshops and at the Friday night 4:30-6:00 pm RMECC Happy Hour being held in the Exhibit Hall. This year 21 workshops will be facilitated by Buell Fellows!!  Check out this impressive list of the Buell Alumni, Fellows and Faculty presenting at the RMECC: 





9:15 – 12:15

Addressing the Blind Spot in Engaging Families: Breathing Life into a Dying System

Joanne Dalton with Craig Hart


Colorado’s Home Visiting Landscape

Heather Tritten

9:15 – 10:45

Afirmando Su Profesion

 ( Affirming Your Profession)

Sofia Esteve

9:15 -12:15:

Coaching Teachers Using Solutions- Focused Techniques

Jasmine Bailon

9:15 – 12:15

I Am Moving I am Learning

Kim Steele

11:00 – 12:00

Real Family Engagement – how to work from Conflict to Connection

Soren Gall


11:00 – 12:00

How Shared Services Can Impact Your ECE Business and Quality Ratings

ELV – Early Learning Ventures

11:00 – 12:00

Adverse Licensing

Kathi Wagoner

11:00 – 12:00

Community Partnerships

Sheri Hannah-Ruh

1:30 – 3:00

Embedded Learning Opportunities for Infant/Toddler Classrooms

Robin Levy

1:30 – 3:00

Strengthening Resiliency Opportunities Everyday

Holly Paulman

1:30 – 4:30

Leading from Every Chair: How to Empower Myself and others to move from “Me to We”

Becky Keigan

Joanne Dalton

1:30- 3:30

Building Connections with Nature:  Gardening with Young Children and Families

Jenna Augustine

Pris Patti

3:15 – 4:15

Infant and Toddler Social Emotional Competence

Sherri Amen

3:15 – 4:15

Navigating the Adverse Action Process

Kathi Wagoner

3:15 – 4:15

Provider Cost Savings from a Comprehensive Shared Services Model

ELV - Early Learning Ventures

4:30 – 6:00

Happy Hour

All Buell Fellows



Born Scientists: Encouraging & Developing Scientific Inquiry with Young Children

Dorothy  Shapland

9:15 – 10:45

Leading to Inspire: Infusing your Passion for the Work You do on Behalf of Children and Families

Becky Keigan

11:00 – 12:00

From Family Engagement to Family Empowerment

Nicole Ortiz

11:00 -12:00

Adverse Licensing

Kathi Wagoner


Infant and Toddler Social Emotional Competence

Sherri Amen



The GrowHaus and BEEs in the Garden partnered with a group of early educators and families of young children from the Northeast Denver region in the development of an early
gardening and nutrition curriculum. The BEEs curriculum is a framework for engaging and experiential learning with young children, families and teachers that nurtures the commitment to the garden as a place for learning and development and that ultimately leads to positive changes in a community’s healthy eating patterns.

To best support a deep attachment to healthy eating, a life-long love of the earth, and a caring for living things, young children must experience and authentically connect to the garden and to the healthy food that the garden yields. In addition to providing access to healthy food, a right of ALL children, the garden becomes an engaging learning environment that nurtures enduring understandings about life, diversity, community, caring and creativity. Working within the GrowHaus’ mission of food justice we encouraged the children to think about what it means to be healthy and listen to their bodies.

Educators and families worked together to engage young children the importance of slowing down and connecting with their natural world. While the parents were learning in the Micro-Farming class about creating a healthy environment, the children were learning alongside them in the BEEs project. Each day families ate a healthy meal, and talked about their day and what they learned. The children were often excited to share their learning with the parents, taking them to parts of the environment where they spent the day exploring.

Grounded in six Big Ideas we watched the children grow and change into more compassionate and caring individuals who were more curious about the food they eat and where it comes from. We saw the children become leaders and experts and share their knowledge with the other children and adults. A curriculum that encourages children to be curious about their health, their environment and the world in which we live is of utmost importance in food insecure communities. We built that foundation at the GrowHaus during the Summer of 2016.


Big Ideas and Enduring Understandings

Community and Culture

Compassion and Caring

Mindfulness and Movement

Health and Nutrition

Senses and the Seasons

Creativity and Expression


In the fall we will continue to embrace the Big Ideas to guide our work with the children and families and build on the knowledge and understandings we discovered this summer. Our genuine hope is to continue to expand this project in Northeast Denver, Denver and eventually across the state.



 Article by Buell Leader Jenna Augustine and BECLP Faculty Member Lori Ryan