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February 2007Vol. 8, No. 1Workforce Retention in Michigan

A project run by the University of Michigan School of Social Work and the Michigan Family Independence Agency (now the Michigan Department of Human Services) is developing and piloting training curricula and strategies to address problems of child welfare workforce recruitment and retention in that State. The 5-year project, which began in late 2003, is focusing on training, data collection, coordination, and technical assistance. In its final year, research results and training materials will be posted on a new website.

Michigan faced an unprecedented exodus of child welfare workers in 2002 when the State offered an attractive early retirement package to State employees. The reduction in the workforce, especially among experienced workers and supervisors, left a gap that the State is still struggling to fill. The goal of this project is to help the State's public agencies address these problems through more effective recruitment and retention of workers.

Michigan's Recruitment and Retention of Child Welfare Professionals project has already begun to develop and test training materials in a number of areas. These will be refined and eventually incorporated into public child welfare training. Project researchers identified four areas in which training could be most effective:

  • Cultural humility training, which supports the worker's role as a learner and empowers the client
  • Legal training that brings together lawyers, court officials, and child welfare workers
  • Supervisor training that focuses on effective human services management skills
  • Training in collaboration between State and Tribal child welfare workers to serve Native American children and families more effectively

A unique facet of this project is the research component, which includes caseworker exit interviews; voluntary focus groups of public child welfare workers, supervisors, and administrators; and a longitudinal survey of child welfare workers in public and contracted agencies. The survey is administered to workers when they first join an agency, and then every 6 months for 18 months. It collects information in a variety of areas, including job satisfaction, job mastery, and personal values. Project researchers are evaluating these data for the respondents as a whole, as well as for workers of different races to see if there are variances. Researchers are also exploring personal values issues that may influence workers' decisions to leave their jobs.

The project team has already planned for sustaining the project after funding ends. The School of Social Work will support the website so that the curricula and other training and research materials will continue to be available. Many of these materials will be retooled for a national audience. In addition, researchers plan to publish project findings in child welfare and social work journals to further disseminate their data.

For more information, contact:

Kathleen Faller, Ph.D., A.C.S.W.
Principal Investigator and Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor in Children and Families
University of Michigan School of Social Work
1080 S. University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Michigan's Recruitment and Retention of Child Welfare Professionals project is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0115, 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

To read about a new online community that addresses child welfare workforce topics, see "Online Community for Workforce Issues" in this issue.