• June/July 2003
  • Vol. 4, No. 5

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GAO Reports on Child Welfare Staffing Challenges

Difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified child welfare staff in State child welfare systems adversely affect safety and permanency outcomes for children in foster care, according to a report released by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) in March. The report, HHS Could Play a Greater Role in Helping Child Welfare Agencies Recruit and Retain Staff, recommends the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) help State child welfare agencies address these challenges, either through the annual discretionary grant program or by encouraging States to use their program improvement plans to address staffing issues that arise in the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs).

The report cites a number of recruitment and retention hurdles, including:

  • Low salaries
  • High caseloads and related administrative burdens
  • Lack of supervisory support
  • Insufficient training

To complete the report, GAO reviewed nearly 600 exit interviews from State, county, and private child welfare agencies across the country and conducted site visits to agencies in four States--California, Illinois, Kentucky, and Texas. In addition, review of CFSRs from 27 States showed high caseloads and caseworker turnover delayed the timeliness of investigations and limited frequency of visits with children. These issues impacted several key safety and permanency outcomes.

Child welfare agencies have implemented a number of strategies to improve recruitment and retention, including forming training partnerships with local universities; seeking agency accreditation; and using hiring competencies, realistic job previews, and recruitment bonuses. Few of these initiatives, however, have been rigorously evaluated.

The full report can be found on the GAO website at www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?gao-03-357.

Related Items

Read more about child welfare workforce issues in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "News From the Child Welfare Training Resources (CWTR) Online Network: CWLA Releases Documents on Workforce Issues" (January 2002)
  • "State of the Child Welfare Workforce Examined" (July/August 2001)

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