Recruiting, Supporting and Keeping Skilled Child Welfare Case Workers

Posted November 2, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog recruitingsupportingandkeepingskilledworkers 2015

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion out­lines how child wel­fare agen­cies can attract and retain tal­ent­ed child wel­fare case work­ers in its new report, A Child Wel­fare Leader’s Desk Guide to Build­ing a High-Per­form­ing Agency.

Child wel­fare lead­ers and staff take on chal­leng­ing, crit­i­cal posi­tions in our com­mu­ni­ties,” says Tracey Feild, man­ag­er of Casey’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. They have direct con­tact with chil­dren and fam­i­lies. They spend con­sid­er­able time in court, arrang­ing for in-home ser­vices and sup­ports, search­ing for rel­a­tives, doing paper­work and plan­ning trans­porta­tion. These work­ers need skills and ongo­ing train­ing and super­vi­sion to per­form their impor­tant roles.” 

The desk guide devotes an entire sec­tion to shar­ing key steps agen­cies can take to give case­work­ers and fos­ter par­ents the sup­ports they need to help chil­dren and fam­i­lies. This sec­tion also offers tips for gaug­ing an agency’s performance. 

We pro­vide ques­tions that com­mu­ni­ties, gov­er­nors, advo­cates and agency lead­ers can ask to gauge an agency’s human resource, train­ing and super­vi­sion mod­els and com­pare them to oth­ers across the nation. Keep­ing case­loads man­age­able and pro­vid­ing tools and train­ing to do the job — these are dif­fi­cult but cru­cial steps to ensur­ing child safe­ty and build­ing stronger fam­i­lies,” Feild adds.

Real change is pos­si­ble, says Feild, who high­lights how child wel­fare agen­cies in Con­necti­cut, Indi­ana and Col­orado have improved work­place conditions. 
Connecticut’s Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies beefed up its case­work­er train­ing and fam­i­ly engage­ment cur­ric­u­la. It also launched an agen­cy­wide Sup­port is Everyone’s Job” cam­paign to under­score the impor­tance of fos­ter par­ents as key front­line practitioners. 

Indi­ana insti­tut­ed a com­pre­hen­sive 12-week cur­ricu­lum, which helped guide smart deci­sion mak­ing across the agency and dri­ve bet­ter results for kids and families.

Agen­cies in three coun­ties are work­ing to recruit staff with the same strengths as their best case work­ers. This work is part of Casey’s On the Front­line project, which is help­ing select state and local juris­dic­tions devel­op inno­v­a­tive approach­es to child pro­tec­tive ser­vices investigations.

The stronger our case work­ers, the bet­ter our abil­i­ty to make good deci­sions and help chil­dren and fam­i­lies,” says Natal­ie Mall, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Depart­ment of Human Ser­vices, Divi­sion of Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies in Jef­fer­son Coun­ty, Col­orado. And slow­ing down staff turnover would pro­vide us with a huge ben­e­fit because a skilled and sta­ble work­force increas­es our abil­i­ty to help kids and families.”

Read the full 10-part prac­tice guide 

Skip direct­ly to the focus of this post: Prac­tice #2, which helps agen­cies find and keep skilled caseworkers.

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