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May 2006Vol. 7, No. 4High Staff Turnover Associated With Maltreatment Recurrence

While past research has documented the negative impact of high staff turnover on child welfare agencies in terms of such factors as case overload and low morale, a new study shows that high staff turnover is also associated with higher rates of recurrence of child abuse and neglect. The study, released by Cornerstones for Kids as part of its Human Services Workforce Initiative, offers recommendations for better agency functioning.

Data from 2002 on 12 diverse California counties provided information on nearly 3,000 workers and more than 40,000 cases. The data allowed researchers to classify the counties as high, moderate, or low functioning based on workplace characteristics, efficiency measures, and recurrence outcomes at 3, 6, and 12 months.

The highest functioning county agencies had both the lowest turnover rate, at 9 percent, and the lowest rates of maltreatment recurrence, at 6 to 15 percent over the three time periods. In comparison, the lowest functioning agencies had a staff turnover rate of 23 percent and maltreatment recurrence rates of 15 to 22 percent.

The study's authors suggest that recurrences of child abuse and neglect can be reduced by maintaining child welfare staff through such measures as:

  • Increased salaries for workers and supervisors
  • Elimination of overtime
  • Elimination of on-call work
  • Emphasis on completing written and approved case plans

Relationship Between Staff Turnover, Child Welfare System Functioning and Recurrent Child Abuse was prepared by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. It is available at (PDF - 1,000 KB).

Related Items

Read more about child welfare workforce issues in the following articles from past issues of Children's Bureau Express:


  • "Child Welfare Workforce Retention" (February 2006)
  • "Child Welfare Workforce Survey Reveals Continuing Concerns, Creative Strategies" (May 2005)
  • "Online Resource for Child Welfare Training" (February 2005)
  • "Addressing the Staffing Crisis in Child and Family Services" (June 2004)
  • "Meeting the Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Quality Staff" (August 2003)