Improving the Child Welfare Workforce

Children’s Rights, in partnership with the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) conducted a study of efforts to improve the child welfare workforce in the context of class action litigation in 12 states and localities across the nation. The report, Improving the Child Welfare Workforce: Lessons Learned from Class Action Litigation, issued in February 2007, documents the progress made and barriers encountered. Based on the lessons learned in these jurisdictions, the report provides a set of recommendations to guide current and future reform efforts.

Children’s Rights and NCYL interviewed 74 stakeholders, including child welfare agency representatives, plaintiffs’ counsel, advocates, judges, children’s attorneys (guardians ad litem), service providers, and others to assess workforce reforms occurring in the context of class action lawsuits.

Many interviewees said that, since the litigation in their jurisdiction, there have been increases in funding for the child welfare system and improvements in staff recruitment, caseloads, supervisory ratios, training, quality assurance, technological supports, and data collection. Many also said that these workforce improvements had begun to translate into improved case practice and better outcomes for children and families. The vast majority of interviewees said that there would not have been improvements without the litigation or that improvements would not have been as significant. However, interviewees also said that worker turnover continues to be a problem and that much work remains to be done to improve the recruitment, training, supervision and retention of high quality child welfare staff.

A major finding from the review is that workforce issues need to be front and center in any systemic effort to reform a child welfare system, whether court-ordered or not. The report includes recommendations to improve the process of reform, such as ensuring that key stakeholders are involved in the design and monitoring of reform efforts. The report also includes specific recommendations for improving the child welfare workforce, including improved workforce training, incentives and retention strategies, linked with rigorous standards for caseload levels, technological support and accountability

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