Eight Child Welfare Systems Selected to Test Workforce Strategies

Staff turnover in child welfare agencies is typically up to six times the national average turnover rate across all industries. High turnover is just one example of costly workforce issues that can negatively impact vulnerable children. The Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development (QIC-WD) at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln (UNL) will partner with eight sites to strengthen their workforce. The selected child welfare agencies include:

QIC-WD Site Locations

  1. Division of Milwaukee (WI) Child Protective Services
  2. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
  3. Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services
  4. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child and Family Services
  5. Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and yet to be selected counties
  6. Oklahoma Department of Human Services
  7. Virginia Department of Social Services and yet to be selected counties
  8. Washington Department of Social and Health Services, Children’s Administration

Sites were chosen through a competitive, national process that began in January 2017. Applicants had to demonstrate their workforce needs and willingness to participate in a research project to be selected. Dr. Michelle Graef, Research Associate Professor in industrial-organizational psychology at the UNL Center on Children, Families and the Law, and Director of the QIC-WD, was pleased that so many organizations applied to be part of their project, yet she noted, “this indicates how pervasive these workforce issues are for child welfare systems across the country.”

According to Dr. Graef, “there are many child welfare agencies that are striving to attract and retain well-qualified staff, and we want to use the best available research to help them achieve that goal. We believe that a strong workforce is vital to the children and families served in child welfare, and we are committed to building the evidence base through what we learn by working with these eight sites.”

The eight selected sites represent a variety of systems. As Dr. Graef explains, “Some are centralized state systems, others are county administered systems, and we have a county and a Tribe that have unique local needs. These organizations operate in a mix of urban and rural communities across the U.S. so they will inform our collective knowledge about what works to strengthen the child welfare workforce in a variety of settings.”

The QIC-WD was established in 2016 and is funded through a five-year cooperative agreement with the Children’s Bureau. The QIC-WD is led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The team includes experts in child welfare, workforce, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination from University of Colorado, Denver; University of Louisville; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; C.F. Parry Associates; CLH Strategies & Solutions; and Great Eastern Consulting.

Over the next four years the QIC-WD will work with the selected sites to address and study potential solutions to their specific workforce issues. A review of the literature, benchmarking survey of current workforce trends, and implementation and evaluation tools will be developed and shared as part of the project. The QIC-WD is committed to using the best available research from a variety of fields to identify strategies to strengthen the workforce of its partner sites.

“Ultimately, a stronger workforce with less turnover and more supportive organizational environments should improve the outcomes of the vulnerable families and children served by the child welfare system,” according to Dr. Graef. The QIC-WD expects that this project will result in evidence-supported workforce strategies applicable to other public and Tribal child welfare agencies and an improved understanding of the connection between the child welfare workforce and outcomes for children and families.