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November 2006Vol. 7, No. 8Workforce Recruitment and Retention in Three Western States

An ongoing project of the Butler Institute for Families at the University of Denver is working to improve workforce recruitment and retention in child welfare at five sites in Colorado, Arizona, and Wyoming. Through the development of new strategies, training, and evaluation methods, the Western Regional Recruitment and Retention Project (WRRRP) hopes to increase both the quality and numbers of applicants for child welfare jobs, retain qualified staff at higher rates, and provide proven models for practice and policy.

The first activity of the WRRRP was a thorough assessment of staff at all levels and sites, using focus groups, interviews, and surveys. The results led to the development of a 3-year strategic plan, which continues to be reviewed and revised. Other innovative project features that show promise for improving workforce recruitment and retention include:

  • Planning teams formed at each site include staff members at all levels; their task is to set priorities and monitor and revise the plan, as needed, at their site.
  • An intranet website connects all project staff, advisory committee members, and representative planning team members.
  • The Arizona team developed a realistic job preview video, which is now required viewing for all child welfare job applicants in the State.
  • Job applicants at the Arizona sites are also able to call a child welfare worker with questions about the job.
  • Training curriculums developed and delivered include a 9-day supervisory core, 1-day basic secondary trauma, 2-day supervisory advanced secondary trauma, and 1-day training for workers on making the most of supervision.
  • WRRRP staff deliver technical assistance and customized training to staff at all sites; evaluations of the trainings to date have been very positive.
  • Ongoing evaluation of the project involves collecting data on recruitment, selection, and turnover; tracking activities and looking at changes in practice; assessing the impact of training; and conducting a thorough organizational assessment.

Intervention ideas and resources are being compiled into a Strategies Matrix Approach for Recruitment and Retention Techniques (SMARRT) manual. The manual will explore challenges and ideas for intervention in recruitment, selection, and retention, covering such topics as marketing child welfare careers, cultivating individual and organizational learning, improving child welfare's image, intra-agency communication, teamwork, supervisory skills, and employee satisfaction. The manual is in the final stages of revision and will soon be available on the project website and widely disseminated.

While the WRRRP is ongoing and final evaluation data are not yet available, the project has been successful in developing and delivering training and providing technical assistance across five sites in three States. The project has created useful resources and begun laying groundwork to make the recruitment and retention efforts sustainable after funding ends.

For more information about WRRRP, contact:

Anne Comstock, Project Manager
Butler Institute for Families, University of Denver, Graduate School of Social Work
2148 S. University Boulevard
Denver, CO 80208

The Western Regional Recruitment and Retention Project is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0117, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Developing Models of Effective Child Welfare Staff Recruitment and Retention Training. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.

Related Items

Two new resources address the issue of workforce retention in child welfare:

  • An online book from the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Self-Assessment Workbook for Building a Stable and Quality Child Welfare Workforce, provides guidance for child welfare administrators about self-assessment, promising strategies, and action items for recruitment and retention of qualified staff: (PDF - 617 KB)

  • A new report from the California Social Work Education Center, The Retention of Public Child Welfare Workers, explores worker turnover among new child welfare workers in California and reports on factors affecting turnover: (PDF - 263 KB)