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May 2014Vol. 15, No. 5Efforts to Reduce Caseworker Turnover

Research has shown that children in foster care who have one caseworker throughout the life of their child welfare case achieve permanency three-quarters of the time, but each caseworker change reduces the odds of achieving permanency. Yet, nationwide, an estimated 20 to 40 percent of caseworkers leave their jobs, and most agencies face an ongoing challenge in hiring and retaining qualified staff.

In "Looking After the Welfare of Child Welfare Workers," an article published by City Limits, author Rachel Blustain describes Children's Corps, a program in New York City, that works to help reduce caseworker turnover. The program was founded in 2011 by Barry Chaffkin, a veteran staffer of foster care agencies in New York City, and Vivianne DeMilly, a long-time administrator for New York City's Children's Services.
The basic elements of the program include:

  • A rigorous interview process to identify people who have perseverance and nonjudgmental, flexible thinking
  • Four weeks of training that includes meeting with panels of parents, foster parents, and youth
  • Posttraining group meetings
  • Professional mentors who are available at any time

With the first cohort of new workers, the retention rate after 1 year was approximately 86 percent, compared to a 60 percent retention rate citywide. After 2 years, the retention rate went down to 71 percent; however, exactly one-half of caseworkers stayed for a third year, and the other half had enrolled in a graduate school program geared toward working in child welfare.

Rachel Blustain is a journalist, social worker, and editorial director of Rise, a publication written by and for parents affected by the child welfare system. City Limits is a New York City-based nonprofit news agency that publishes investigative and in-depth reporting on urban life and policy.

"Looking After the Welfare of Child Welfare Workers" is available on the City Limits website:

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