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A new human services job for child welfare caseworkers

It’s time to develop a new human services job description—one that frees child welfare caseworkers for the job that they were meant to do.

Overview

Child welfare caseworkers do vital work for our communities, and for our collective future. Yet this human services profession is at a crossroads. National turnover rates are rising amid complex challenges—from exploding caseloads to burdensome administrative responsibilities—with some states as high as 25 to 35 percent.

Turnover is costly all around. Human services agencies essentially lose time and money spent on recruitment and training. Remaining caseworkers, who are already stretched thin, must fill the gaps when people leave. Children and families lose out too because turnover adversely affects outcomes. So how can human services agencies bring caseworkers back to kids?

Background

Ask child welfare caseworkers about their jobs, and they will tell you about their commitment—and their frustrations too.

One state agency caseworker explains her struggle. “There’s so much more that I want to do for the kids. Some days, though, I feel like I’m doing everything but spending time helping them.”

Key Findings

By supporting changes in how caseworkers work in three important areas, human services agencies can help empower child welfare caseworkers to rediscover what inspired them to pursue the profession in the first place.

  1. Mobile worker, not office worker. Smartphones and tablets offer deep and immediate information access, interactivity, and on-the-go, real-time reporting capabilities. All this enables caseworkers to spend more time in the field, and makes that time more productive than ever.

  2. Data analysis, not just data entry. Today’s caseworkers spend far too much time inputting data when they could be acting on it. Agencies must help staff believe in data again by shifting the focus from inputs to outcomes, and from quantity to quality.

  3. Interconnected, not isolationist. The safety network designed to protect children too often exists in silos. A convergence of technology systems, processes and governance is needed to improve collaboration and data sharing—along with cultural change too.

Analysis

But the hard truth is that there will always be kids in need. Child welfare caseworkers are their lifeline. Empowering these dedicated human services professionals to help children means rewriting their job description so that nothing gets in the way of their passion and purpose.

Pull Quote

There’s so much more that I want to do for the kids. Some days, though, I feel like I’m doing everything but spending time helping them.

Child welfare caseworker