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April 2007Vol. 8, No. 3Design Teams Facilitate Workforce Recruitment and Retention

A university-based project in New York State aims to improve recruitment and retention of the child welfare workforce through the use of agency design teams. The design teams, which include staff from every level, work to solve the problems that are causing undesirable turnover in their particular agencies. This innovative model was developed by the School of Social Welfare at the University at Albany at the State University of New York and has already been implemented in both rural and urban counties.

The model includes input from outside facilitators who conduct a job satisfaction survey within a county agency and share the results with the agency's design team. Based on that information, the team uses a logic model process to identify the problem and its cause and to come up with a workable solution. For instance, in Schoharie County, the design team has addressed such worker issues as consistency in case record documentation (by developing agency procedures), on-call responsibilities (by developing and implementing a manual), and after-hours parking (by persuading the county to change the restrictions).

As part of the model, project staff developed a number of tools to help design teams function smoothly and effectively, including:

  • Operational guidelines
  • Team rules and norms
  • Team member responsibilities
  • Logic model examples
  • A 2-day curriculum for design team training
  • A list of qualities and competencies for design team facilitators

The need for innovative approaches to workforce recruitment and retention has been documented in New York State by the Social Work Education Consortium (SWEC), a formal partnership among the deans of the graduate social work programs in New York and officials from the State, the counties, and New York City. Two large-scale surveys sponsored by SWEC looked specifically at counties that had the lowest and highest turnover rates and identified factors that were key to hiring and keeping good workers. New York's Child and Family Services Review provided another source of information about problems in the child welfare workforce. As a result of the review, participants saw the need for workforce development and professionalization, and strategies for meeting this need became part of the New York State Program Improvement Plan.

While a formal evaluation is still being developed for the design team model, initial survey results indicate that design team members experience increased job satisfaction and commitment and decreased burnout. Anecdotal evidence supports this finding, as design team members have noted both decreased turnover and increased cooperation among workers.

For more information, contact:
Mary L. McCarthy, Ph.D., LMSW
University at Albany
School of Social Welfare
316 Richardson Hall
135 Western Avenue
Albany, NY 12222

The University at Albany Innovative Model to Improve Recruitment and Retention project is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant #90-CT-0116, 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 Item

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