Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Caseworker Turnover & Recurrent Child Abuse

Annual turnover in child welfare agencies averages between 20 and 40 percent. Resources spend in replacing workers means money spent on administrative services, rather than services to at-risk families. Additionally, the experience and knowledge of frontline workers impacts the level of effectiveness in serving families.

Effective workers are generally those who are:
-Well trained and supported
-Given access to necessary resources to do their jobs
-Allotted a reasonable workload
-Valued by their employers (i.e., reasonable salary)

Cornerstones for Kids recently did a study that revealed a correlation between staff turnover and recurrent child abuse and neglect. They used 2002 data from 12 diverse California counties and were provided information on approximately 3,000 workers and 40,000 cases.

Researchers classified the counties as low, moderate or high functioning, based on workplace characteristics, efficiency measures and recurrence outcomes at 3, 6 and 12 months. The outcome of this study demonstrated that high staff turnover was associated with higher rates of recurrence of child abuse and neglect.

1.) Low functioning county agencies demonstrated the following characteristics:
- Lowest salaries for both workers and supervisors ($32,245 and $38,576, respectively)
- Least amount of training days for new workers (14 days)
- Required to be on-call

Efficiency rate of low functioning agencies:
- Staff turnover rate of 23%
- Maltreatment recurrence rates of 15 - 22 %.
- Highest rate of non-compliance with standard time of investigation (17.3%)
- Time from first contact to closing investigation greater than 60 days = 40.3%
- Care providers least likely to be given health and education documents (17.1%)
- Only 51% of children received a standard physical exam

2.) Moderate functioning agencies demonstrated the following characteristics:
- Salary in the median range for workers and supervisors ($41,154 and $51,1999 respectively)
- Moderate amount of training days for new workers (31 days)
- Educational reimbursement allowed
- Moderate effectiveness

3.) High functioning agencies demonstrated the following characteristics:
- Highest salaries for both workers and supervisors ($56, 71 and $70,057 respectively)
- Most amount of training days for new workers (48 days)
- Educational reimbursement allowed
- Best ratio of workers to supervisors
- On-call status was optional or not required

Efficiency rate of high functioning agencies:
- Lowest staff turnover rate (9%)
- Lowest rates of maltreatment recurrence (6-15%)
- Greater percentages of approved case plans (twice as many as low-functioning agencies)
- Care providers more likely to be given health and education documents (43.9%)
- 71.1% of children received a standard physical exam

Recommendations from the study's authors*:
1.) Increase salaries for workers and supervisors
2.) Eliminate overtime
3.) Eliminate of on-call work
4.) Emphasize completing written and approved case plans

*Please note that caseload size did not factor into this particular study, because the agencies that they studied did not exceed the recommended maximum levels.

**Also, the authors of the study didn't comment on it, but I find it interesting that the highest functioning agencies were more likely to make sure the child had a physical exam and to share medical information with care providers. That might prevent recurrent child abuse due to physical evidence, in my opinion.

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Comments:
This is one of the things they talked about when I went to a partners in CPS reform meeting on April 5th. It's the case all over the country. The only Texas area with a great, solidly staffed CPS was an area with mostly retired folks (They don't have any kids!)
Lisa, I saw your comment on my blog before I deleted my blog. (I am going to start over with my daily life blog). Congratulations! Keep everyone posted.
 
Lisa,
Your voice is powerful...keep talking! Have you connected with NACAC yet? (North American Council on Adoptable Children) I used to work with NACAC and I think that you would be an awesome speaker at their annual conference! Email me from my blog if you would like me to help get you connected. ~Kari
 
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