Five Steps to Hiring and Retaining Frontline Child Welfare Staff

Posted September 5, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog improvingchildwelfarehiringandretention 2018

Child wel­fare agen­cies can strug­gle to assem­ble and retain front­line staff mem­bers need­ed to ensure that kids and fam­i­lies are safe and thriv­ing. A new pub­li­ca­tion from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion pro­vides agency lead­ers with a blue­print for improv­ing work­force prac­tices through hir­ing and retain­ing the right people.

Five Steps to a Stronger Child Wel­fare Work­force out­lines a proven improve­ment process that Casey devel­oped in part­ner­ship with two pub­lic agen­cies: Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Divi­sion of Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices in Ohio and Jef­fer­son Coun­ty Divi­sion of Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies in Col­orado. The report grew out of the Foundation’s On the Front­line project, a three-year effort to improve the qual­i­ty and sta­bil­i­ty of front­line staff.

Down­load the report

On the Front­line helped us iden­ti­fy how to improve the effi­ca­cy of most child wel­fare agen­cies,” says Tracey Feild, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. Our work in these coun­ties under­scored the need for agency lead­ers to align their work­force efforts with the human resources depart­ment. To dri­ve the con­crete improve­ments that you need, you have to col­lab­o­rate with HR.”

The pub­li­ca­tion helps lead­ers at pub­lic agen­cies visu­al­ize and imple­ment a work­force improve­ment plan. It also iden­ti­fies the ben­e­fits of this approach, such as sta­bi­liz­ing front­line staff, reduc­ing the amount of time it takes to fill vacant posi­tions and focus­ing staff on the safe­ty and well-being chil­dren and families.

The five steps described in the paper are:

  1. Part­ner with human resources. Estab­lish­ing sol­id, col­lab­o­ra­tive rela­tion­ships with human resource teams — often housed out­side the agency—helps get every­one on the same page with staffing goals and needs.
  2. Get strate­gic. Agen­cies do bet­ter when they are inten­tion­al in their plans and actions. Using a ded­i­cat­ed work­force inno­va­tion team can help add a need­ed focus to real­iz­ing key results and objectives.
  3. Cre­ate a com­pe­ten­cy-based cul­ture. Work­force results improve when agen­cies make core com­pe­ten­cies cen­tral to hir­ing deci­sions and per­for­mance management.
  4. Use data and a data dash­board. The right data viewed reg­u­lar­ly should guide work­force efforts and shed light on need­ed course corrections.
  5. Build a pos­i­tive work envi­ron­ment. With the high stress lev­els that come with child wel­fare inves­ti­ga­tions work, an agency’s cul­ture can be the dif­fer­ence between retain­ing and los­ing valu­able staff members.

Read the report for exam­ples of work­force prac­tice improve­ments in Cuya­hoga and Jef­fer­son counties.

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