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March 2009Vol. 10, No. 2Workload in Child Protective and Child Welfare Services

A number of studies have shown that adequate staffing and a manageable workload for child welfare workers lead to improved child safety and timely permanency. Workload analysis is essential to the complex task of setting adequate practice standards. Failure to estimate appropriate caseloads can influence the quality of services caseworkers provide and diminish the agency's overall functioning.

A recent special issue of American Humane's Protecting Children, "The Study of Workload in Child Protective and Child Welfare Services," includes five research articles on workload management in the context of various methodological perspectives. Each article describes results from specific workload studies conducted in different geographical areas.

  • "Agency Workforce Estimation: A Step Toward Effective Workload Management" identifies some simple steps to measure and manage an agency's workforce capacity (Dennis Wagner, Kristen Johnson, and Theresa Healy).
  • "Prerequisite for Workload Studies" describes the elements of an effective approach to workload management through commitment, cooperation, communication, and strategic leadership (Robin Arnold-Williams and Donald Graham).
  • "The Canadian Experience in Conceptualizing and Evaluating Child Welfare Workload: A Moving Target" highlights the importance of developing a workload methodology that is able to convert current caseload data into workload data (Deborah Goodman and Howard Hurwitz).
  • "A Critical Appraisal of What Child Welfare Workers Do: Findings From a Task Analysis Study in Florida" involves an analysis of time log data from two groups of frontline workers to assess the complexities of their tasks and activities (Robin Perry and Steven Murphy).
  • "Work, Case, and Time: Setting Standards for Workload Management" illustrates the purpose of various aspects of workload studies, with special attention to the process and issue of setting standards (Myles T. Edwards and Joanna deVaron Reynolds).

The special issue of Protecting Children, Vol. 23(3), can be downloaded on the American Humane website:

Related Item

For information on workload studies around the country, visit Child Welfare Information Gateway's Workload Compendium at