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Using Workforce Data To Improve Child Welfare Programs (audio description)

Using Workforce Data To Improve Child Welfare Programs (audio description)


– WORKING IN
CHILD WELFARE IS TOUGH FOR SO MANY DIFFERENT REASONS. IN CHILD WELFARE, WE ARE OFTEN
ASKED TO DO SO MUCH UNDER STRESS AND SOMETIMES
WITH LITTLE SUPPORT, BUT WE FIND A WAY
TO MAKE IT WORK. I KNOW THAT WHAT WE DO
MAKES A DIFFERENCE, AND THAT’S WHY I WORK
IN CHILD WELFARE. DESPITE THE CHALLENGES, IT’S
BEEN THE RIGHT CAREER FOR ME. MANY OF MY COWORKERS
AND FRIENDS OVER THE YEARS HAVE FOUND IT REWARDING, TOO,
BUT UNFORTUNATELY, WE DIDN’T DO ENOUGH
TO KEEP THEM IN OUR AGENCY. IT’S ABOUT TIME
THAT WE GOT SMARTER ABOUT OUR
CHILD WELFARE WORKFORCE. WE HAVE TO KEEP TRACK
OF WHO AND WHAT MATTERS MOST. MOST CHILD WELFARE AGENCIES
DON’T KNOW VERY MUCH ABOUT THEIR MOST IMPORTANT
ASSETS–THEIR WORKERS. AND LACK OF AWARENESS ABOUT OUR
WORKFORCE ALL TOO OFTEN RESULTS IN A FAILURE TO INVEST
WISELY IN THE PEOPLE WHO WORK DIRECTLY WITH
CHILDREN AND FAMILIES AND WHO ACCEPT
THE GREATEST BURDEN FOR THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE
OF OUR SERVICES. THOUGH SOME STATES
AND LOCAL AGENCIES HAVE BEGUN TO COLLECT
WORKFORCE DATA, CHILD WELFARE LAGS BEHIND
MANY OTHER PROFESSIONS IN UNDERSTANDING
WHO THEIR PEOPLE ARE AND HOW THOSE PEOPLE ARE DOING. IF WE’RE REALLY
SERIOUS ABOUT IMPROVING THE LIVES OF CHILDREN
AND FAMILIES, THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. WE ROUTINELY GATHER INFORMATION
AND ASSESS NEEDS WHEN PROVIDING SERVICES
TO FAMILIES, SO WHAT KEEPS US FROM COLLECTING
DATA ABOUT OUR WORKERS AND INVESTIGATING HOW BEST
TO SUPPORT THEM? EXAMINING TURNOVER IS
A GOOD PLACE TO START. TURNOVER IS THE WORD WE USE
TO DESCRIBE HOW MANY PEOPLE LEAVE THEIR JOBS
IN A GIVEN TIME PERIOD. IT’S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND
WHY AND WHEN PEOPLE DECIDE
TO QUIT THEIR JOBS. ONE NATIONAL STUDY
SUGGESTED THAT ONE IN 5 CHILD WELFARE WORKERS LEAVE THEIR JOBS
WITHIN ONE YEAR, AND THAT THIS RATE
CAN BE EVEN HIGHER FOR FRONTLINE CHILD PROTECTIVE
SERVICE WORKERS. WE ALSO KNOW THAT
FOR CERTAIN AGENCIES, THE TURNOVER RATES ARE
AS HIGH AS 30% TO 40%. TURNOVER AFFECTS
THE WHOLE AGENCY AND CAN BE PART OF
A VICIOUS CYCLE THAT CREATES JOB VACANCIES, LEAVES REMAINING WORKERS
STRESSED AND OVERLOADED, AND LEADS TO FUTURE DEPARTURES. WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO
ASK OURSELVES THESE QUESTIONS: WHAT IS MY AGENCY’S
ANNUAL TURNOVER RATE? WHAT IS THE AVERAGE LENGTH OF
TIME THAT A WORKER STAYS IN A POSITION IN OUR AGENCY? WHAT IS OUR VACANCY RATE–
THE NUMBER OF OPEN POSITIONS
RIGHT NOW? HOW DOES TURNOVER AND VACANCY
VARY BY POSITION IN THE AGENCY? TURNOVER IS ALSO COSTLY. SOME FORMULAS USED TO CALCULATE
THE DIRECT COST OF TURNOVER HAVE ESTIMATED THAT IT CAN COST
BETWEEN 50% TO 100% OF A FULL-TIME SALARY
TO FILL THE SAME POSITION. IMAGINE AN AGENCY
WITH A STAFF OF 200. ITS TURNOVER COST
PER WORKER IS $20,000. COSTS CAN RAPIDLY ESCALATE. IF THE AGENCY’S TURNOVER RATE
IS 20%, THE ANNUAL DIRECT COSTS WOULD BE $800,000 PER YEAR. AGENCIES CAN EASILY
FIND THEMSELVES IN A CONSTANT MODE OF
RECRUITING, ORIENTING, AND TRAINING NEW WORKERS
RATHER THAN PROVIDING THE SPECIALIZED TRAINING AND
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT NEEDED TO RETAIN EXPERIENCED WORKERS. WHAT DOES IT COST OUR AGENCY
TO RECRUIT, HIRE, AND TRAIN A NEW WORKER TO FILL
A VACANT POSITION? HOW MUCH DOES OUR TURNOVER RATE
COST THE AGENCY EACH YEAR? BUT, MOST IMPORTANTLY,
TURNOVER HAS A HUMAN IMPACT. IT’S NOT SURPRISING
THAT IN PLACES WHERE WORKERS LEAVE
THE MOST FREQUENTLY, CHILD AND FAMILY OUTCOMES
CAN BE THE MOST CONCERNING. WORKER TURNOVER NEGATIVELY
IMPACTS CHILDREN AND YOUTH, BECAUSE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
WHO HAVE MORE CASEWORKER CHANGES EXPERIENCE MORE
PLACEMENT DISRUPTIONS AND LONGER STAYS
WHILE IN FOSTER CARE. THEY CAN ALSO EXPERIENCE HIGHER
RATES OF REPEAT MALTREATMENT AND RE-ENTRY INTO FOSTER CARE. TURNOVER MEANS THE LOSS
OF TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS, AND SECOND CHANCES. WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES
OF TURNOVER ON WORKLOAD, PERFORMANCE,
AND OUTCOMES IN OUR AGENCY? HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE
TO FILL A VACANCY? WHAT EFFECTS DOES A VACANCY
TYPICALLY HAVE ON CASELOAD SIZE? WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
TURNOVER, CASEWORKER CHANGES, AND OUTCOMES? UNDERSTANDING TURNOVER RATES,
COSTS, AND THEIR IMPACTS PROVIDE US WITH
AN OPPORTUNITY TO INVESTIGATE REASONS WORKERS LEAVE
AND TO IDENTIFY POSSIBLE STRATEGIES
TO KEEP THEM. WE DO KNOW SOME IMPORTANT
THINGS ALREADY ABOUT WHAT CHILD WELFARE PROFESSIONALS
NEED TO THRIVE. RECENT SOCIAL WORK GRADUATES ARE
MORE SATISFIED WITH THEIR JOBS AND LIKELY TO STAY WHEN
THEY HAVE SUPPORT FROM SUPERVISORS AND PEERS, STRONG
ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERSHIP, OPPORTUNITIES FOR CAREER GROWTH, AND A VOICE IN
ORGANIZATIONAL DECISIONS. THIS INCLUDES PROVIDING
ONGOING TRAINING TO ENSURE THAT WORKERS’ SKILLS AND
PRACTICE-KNOWLEDGE KEEP PACE WITH THE NEEDS
OF THEIR CLIENTS. WITHOUT DATA ABOUT THE TYPES
OF TRAINING AND SUPPORT THAT OUR WORKFORCE IS RECEIVING, WE CAN’T INVESTIGATE
WHETHER OR HOW THESE BENEFITS ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE
IN RETENTION. AGENCY LEADERS SHOULD
HAVE QUALITY DATA THAT ANSWERS THE QUESTIONS ABOUT
HOW SATISFIED THEIR WORKERS ARE AND HOW SKILLED WORKERS ARE
AT DOING THEIR JOBS. WHY DO WORKERS LEAVE?
WHY DO OTHERS STAY? WHAT TRAINING DO WORKERS GET
AND IS IT EFFECTIVE? WHAT SALARY AND BENEFITS
PACKAGES DO WE OFFER? HOW VALUED AND SUPPORTED
DO OUR WORKERS FEEL? STRENGTHENING THE WORKFORCE
DOESN’T JUST MEAN RELYING ONLY ON STRATEGIES
TO RETAIN CURRENT WORKERS, IT REQUIRES SUCCESSFULLY
RECRUITING AND SELECTING THE RIGHT PEOPLE FOR THE JOB–
FROM THE BEGINNING. UNDERSTANDING THE
CHARACTERISTICS OF WHO IS APPLYING FOR
CHILD WELFARE POSITIONS AND WHO AN AGENCY IS HIRING
CAN HELP US ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT WHICH TYPES
OF WORKERS THE AGENCY TENDS TO SELECT FOR EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLORE WHETHER
THOSE WHO LEAVE AND STAY SHARE SIMILAR CHARACTERISTICS. THIS INFORMATION MAY INFORM
FUTURE RECRUITMENT STRATEGIES
AND HIRING PRACTICES THAT COULD SUPPORT WORKER
RETENTION, AGENCY EFFECTIVENESS, AND OTHER AGENCY GOALS. FOR INSTANCE,
EVALUATION FINDINGS SUGGEST THAT PROFESSIONAL PREPARATION
OF THE WORKFORCE CAN IMPROVE RETENTION
AND EFFECTIVENESS. GRADUATES OF PROGRAMS FUNDED
TO PREPARE AND RECRUIT SOCIAL WORK STUDENTS
TO CHILD WELFARE ARE MORE CONFIDENT,
BETTER PREPARED FOR WORK, AND STAY LONGER. EDUCATIONAL CREDENTIALS,
YEARS AND TYPES OF PROFESSIONAL AND VOLUNTEER
EXPERIENCE, SKILLS, DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION,
AND EVEN INITIAL MOTIVATIONS
AND EXPECTATIONS MAY PROVE HELPFUL TO COLLECT
FROM THE INCOMING WORKFORCE. WE CAN GET SMARTER
ABOUT OUR WORKFORCE, BUT IT REQUIRES SPECIFIC EFFORTS
TO GET THE RIGHT DATA AND INFORMATION TO GUIDE
DECISION-MAKING. NEGLECTING TO EXPLORE
DATA ABOUT TURNOVER, TRAINING AND ORGANIZATIONAL
FACTORS, AND WORKFORCE CHARACTERISTICS HAS REAL AND MEANINGFUL
CONSEQUENCES– FOR OUR WORKERS,
THE HEALTH OF OUR AGENCIES, AND THE CHILDREN
AND FAMILIES WE SERVE. WHEN IT COMES TO IMPROVING
THE SAFETY, PERMANENCY, AND WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN
AND THEIR FAMILIES, OUR AGENCIES ARE ONLY AS STRONG
AS THE PEOPLE SERVING IN THEM. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE CHILD WELFARE
AGENCIES NEED TO PUT IN PLACE DATA COLLECTION
AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS TO GATHER ACCURATE, COMPLETE,
RECENT, AND HISTORICAL DATA ON ALL THEIR WORKERS. THIS WILL REQUIRE STRONG
PARTNERSHIPS AND COMMUNICATION BETWEEN CHILD
WELFARE ADMINISTRATORS AND STATE AND COUNTY
HUMAN RESOURCE STAFF. IT’S IMPORTANT THAT WE ARE
COLLECTING THE CORRECT DATA; THAT WE HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
IN PLACE TO CRUNCH THE NUMBERS; THAT WE HAVE
THE SKILLS NECESSARY TO TELL A STORY
ABOUT THOSE NUMBERS, AND TO USE THEM TO SUPPORT
STRATEGIC PLANNING. THE PROMISE OF A MORE ENGAGED
AND STABLE WORKFORCE DEPENDS ON BETTER DATA,
AND INVESTING IN THE WORKFORCE IS THE SMARTEST MOVE
WE CAN MAKE.

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