Title IV-B of the Social Security Act contains a $20 million allotment for child welfare workforce development, with a particular focus on activities designed to increase retention, recruitment, and training of caseworkers to improve monthly visits with families. At a time when caseworker turnover and vacancies are reaching crisis levels, it is necessary to expand this critical funding.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the child welfare workforce faced serious concerns. The nature of child welfare work leads to high levels of turnover. Now, the pandemic has worsened pre-existing issues within the workforce, with high turnover rates and rising concern over compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary trauma. Increased turnover rates and the resulting higher caseloads result in perpetuating the caseworker crisis. Studies have found that factors related to workloads such as emotional exhaustion and a lack of supervisory or administrative support also led to increased levels of turnover.
High turnover rates negatively impacted children and families. According to the New York City-based Fostering Change for Children, “children with one caseworker achieve permanency in 74.5 percent of cases. But the more caseworkers involved in a child’s life, the less chance that a child has to achieve permanency, ranging from 17.5% for children with two caseworkers, to the low rate of 0.1% for children who had six or seven caseworkers during their time in care.”
By strengthening the workforce and ensuring caseworkers have manageable workloads, we will achieve a reduction in child abuse, reduce the number of children going into foster care, and increase adoptions for children of all ages.
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