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June 2007Vol. 8, No. 5Workforce Recruitment and Retention in New England

A project by the University of Southern Maine's Child Welfare Training Institute aims to increase and improve the recruitment and retention of child welfare workers in Maine and other New England States through a mix of best practice strategies. Essential components of the project include activities in the areas of recruitment, selection of new employees, and supervisory support and training.

Recruitment is an ongoing process from a central office that coordinates for the entire State of Maine, including extensive Internet postings. An important thrust of the recruitment strategy is a marketing approach developed by staff, who have created a logo, brand, and website for the project. Recruitment materials—including a brochure, packet, and display for job fairs—are designed to be eye-catching and provide realistic job information. Another successful recruitment strategy has been the establishment of internships, both paid and unpaid, for college students.

The process of selecting new workers is designed to help both the candidate and the agency determine whether the job would be a good fit. Components include:

  • Showing a realistic job preview video
  • Engaging in a mutual decision-making process in which both the applicant and the agency answer questions about suitability for the job
  • Comparing candidates against 10 core competencies that may predict long-term success on the job
  • Requiring applicants to complete a realistic caseworker exercise designed to test their skills in interviewing, fact-finding, analyzing case material, and writing

The project supports child welfare supervisors through a Supervisory Academy that focuses on four levels of professional development and includes the design for a certificate program for experienced supervisors and an M.S.W. course entitled "Creating a High Performance Workforce in Child Welfare." In addition to training, supervisors engage in a number of structured on-the-job activities designed to promote mastery of core competencies.

Evaluation of Maine's child welfare recruitment and retention project began in 2004 and is ongoing. It features a database to track turnover and vacancies, data from entrance and exit questionnaires, results from annual job satisfaction surveys, financial costs of turnover, and analysis of the efficacy of internships and competency-based screening. Many of the survey results are currently available on the project's website, along with recruitment materials and other resources, such as "When the Child Speaks: The Impact of Caseworker Turnover on Children and Youth," a video of interviews with children in foster care.

For more information about the project, visit the website:

Or contact the project director:
Freda Bernotavicz, Project Director
Institute for Public Sector Innovation
Muskie School, University of Southern Maine
295 Water Street
Augusta, ME 04330

The Recruitment and Retention of Child Welfare Staff project is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0112, 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.