Workforce Crisis in Child Welfare
Dear Friend of Children:
Below is a sample op-ed on the Workforce Crisis in Child Welfare. It has suggested text to which you can add missing information (see bold type) about your agency, your community, and how this issue is affecting the children and families you serve. The op-ed should be typed on your agency's letterhead. It can be sent to daily and weekly newspapers, and to the editors of newsletters published by local businesses, groups and organizations, and colleges and universities in your area.
Thank you for your help in spreading the word about this important issue. If there is anything else I can do to help, please contact me at 202/638-2952 or E-mail email@example.com.
Susan J. Brite
Vice President, Communications
Child Welfare League of America
Workforce Crisis in Child Welfare
By [fill in name]
Children living in a group home come home from school asking, "Who's taking care of us tonight?" because the staff list changes so frequently. A child protective services social worker has 50% more cases than the state guidelines allow, and so has to decide which children and families to visit based on level of risk rather than a treatment plan. A community youth worker makes less per hour than the teenagers she works with who have part-time jobs at fast food restaurants.
Across the country, child welfare agencies are experiencing annual staff turnover rates of over 45% and vacancy rates that may force them to shut their doors due to unsafe ratios of clients to staff. As a result, the children and youth most in need of stable, supportive environments are at risk of falling through the cracks in the system yet again.
The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), the nation's oldest and largest association of agencies that directly help at-risk children and youth, surveyed child-serving organizations in collaboration with the Alliance for Children and Families and the American Public Human Services Association. Their study revealed that child welfare agencies across the country are experiencing high staff vacancy rates in addition to high levels of attrition. Most commonly attributed causes were noncompetitive salaries and stressful workloads.
Although those in the field of human services have historically been overworked, underpaid, and undervalued by society at large, the economic situation of the past few years has made it increasingly difficult for agencies to recruit and retain the kind of competent employees necessary to adequately serve their clients. In fact, child and youth workers nationwide make less, on average, than do garbage collectors, animal control workers, and pest controllers. [Add a sentence describing the situation in your local community.]
The children that these agencies serve have already had difficult lives, whether from abuse and neglect or because of physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Yet in many ways, these children are no different from our own-they have the same capacity to love and the same need to be loved as all of us. They deserve to know that the people who care for them are going to be around for a while, rather than seeing them forced to seek better-compensated jobs to pay their rent.
The children served by child welfare agencies have the same potential to become future teachers, doctors, and business leaders as each of us had when we were young. That potential is at risk, however, because of the circumstances in their lives - circumstances over which they have no control. To ensure a safe and healthy future for them, we must invest in the professionals who care for them, and make a national commitment to providing a living wage to those who choose to dedicate their lives to vulnerable children and youth. [Add a sentence about your agency and any efforts to address the problem.]
More money won't solve every problem or save every child. A greater investment in workers, however, can directly translate into better care for young people. Thoughtful planning and spending on staff development can make a huge difference. Aggressive recruitment of the most qualified candidates, coupled with the highest quality training and support possible for agency employees, will amount to happier workers better qualified to deal with the often explosive, delicate, or even dangerous situations they face on a daily basis.
Money spent on programs to protect children and strengthen vulnerable families is a wise and worthwhile expenditure. Together, we can give all children the chance to fulfill their dreams. Americans everywhere must realize the critical importance of the work child welfare staff do in promoting the healthy development of tomorrow's citizens.
[Add a sentence or two about the author/organization represented.]
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