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In Response to Child Deaths Nationwide Child Welfare League of America Releases State Surveys Highlighting the Status of the Nation's Children and the Crisis Faced by the Child Welfare System

Calls for Increased Federal Investment in Children's Services and Case Workers

For more information, contact
Joyce Johnson
Phone: 804/492-4519
Cell: 703/980-7641

March 4, 2003, Washington, D.C. -- The oldest and largest national children's organization and its 1,100 members today released State by State Child Welfare Data showing increases in child deaths as a result of abuse and neglect and recommended specific solutions aimed at resolving the problem. The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) released State Level Information documenting 1,236 children in the year 2000 who died as the result of abuse or neglect, along with data on a range of other problems confronting child welfare.

"The tragic events in Maine, New Jersey, Florida and other states have made national headlines, but as the information we are releasing today shows, the underlying problems certainly are not unique to those states," Shay Bilchik, President/CEO of CWLA said. "There is a crisis in how our nation is responding to children who are abused, neglected, exposed to violence, drugs, and alcohol, homeless, runaways, or without families."

CWLA members, gathered in Washington, DC for their annual legislative conference, also issued a study of salaries paid to child welfare administrators and caseworkers, a Report on Workforce Issues (PDF), data on child fatalities, and educational requirements and entry level salaries for caseworkers. The numbers of children coming into the child welfare system remain at unacceptably high levels because of substance abuse, poverty, joblessness, housing, and other social problems. For example, approximately 67% of parents with children in the child welfare system require substance abuse treatment, but child welfare agencies are able to provide treatment to only 31%1 and only 1 of 7 children eligible for child care assistance under federal law will receive it.

Unfortunately, as the demand has increased, there has not been a commensurate increase in resources for caseworkers and services. CWLA's Salary Study shows that the average starting salary for individuals responsible for our nation's vulnerable children is $29,412 (for those with a Masters degree in social work); and $26,453 for those with any undergraduate degree - less than that of underpaid nurses and teachers. Further, the average caseload for these individuals generally exceed CWLA's recommended levels.

CWLA has issued a set of fifteen key recommendations, in response to the data revealing the cause of the crisis asserting that as the President, Congress, and State legislators make budget decisions in the midst of international turmoil and the worst budget crises facing states in over a decade, they must closely assess their priorities. Budget allocations must determine whether we apply funding to services, staff, and salaries now to ensure that all children grow up into healthy responsible, contributing adults or face a greater tax burden on states in ten years as we provide treatment, hospitalization, foster care, policing, and jails for these children.

CWLA issues standards for worker caseloads, and advocates for salaries and training that can be achieved if funding decisions are made wisely. The federal government, in particular, must step forward to help states. CWLA's Legislative Platform opposes any efforts to reduce federal commitments to programs for child welfare, Medicaid, HeadStart and foster care and calls on Congress to increase resources to combat child abuse and neglect, provide substance abuse treatment, youth development, childcare, and enact legislation that will create incentives for increased funding by States and localities

"As we ensure security in our homeland, we must also ensure that our homes and communities are safe from abuse and neglect. The "first responders" in the nation's battle to protect our children are working hard in the day care centers, community centers, schools, and social service agencies in communities across this country. This vital work requires adequate funding and a commitment to sound practices," Bilchik said. "In this time of fiscal crises, the Federal Government must step forward to help states act in the best interests of our nation's future viability."

Established in 1920, the Child Welfare League of America strives to advance sound public policy on behalf of the more than three million abused, neglected, and vulnerable children served by its 1200 public and private member agencies. To further its mission of preserving, protecting, and promoting the well-being of all children and families, CWLA conducts research; develops standards of best practice; hosts regional and national conferences; provides comprehensive, field-based consultation and professional development services; and is the largest publisher of child welfare materials in North America.

Related Links

  CWLA Fact Sheet

  State by State Child Welfare Data

  National Fact Sheet

  Report on Workforce Issues (PDF)

  States-at-a-Glance State Level Information

  Building a Strong National Child Welfare System: Fifteen Essential Steps

  2001 Salary Study Information

  CWLA Recommended Caseload/ Workload Standards

  CWLA's Legislative Priorities

  CWLA President/CEO Shay Bilchik

  Shay Bilchik's Opening Remarks - 2003 National Conference

  Shay Bilchik's Remarks at CWLA Annual Conference Press Briefing

  National Data Analysis System
  • Child Fatalities table
  • Educational Requirements for Caseworkers and Supervisors
  • Salary Range for Caseworkers and Supervisors


  1. Child Welfare League of America. (1997). Survey of state and public child welfare agencies. Washington, DC: CWLA Press.

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