National Child Welfare Resource Center
for Organizational Improvement
A service of the Children's Bureau, US Department of Health and Human Services

Freda Bernotavicz
Institute for Public Sector Innovation
Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service
University of Southern Maine


I. Background

Recruitment and retention of child welfare caseworkers is a chronic and apparently intractable problem throughout the country. In 1960, the Children's Bureau issued a report entitled "In Search of Staff for Child Welfare" which noted staffing shortages nationwide and urged aggressive recruitment and retention strategies by the states. Despite numerous studies and recommendations, and the recognition of the negative impact on services and clients, child welfare agencies nationally place low priority on strategies to retain qualified staff (Russell, 1987).

An assessment of the child and family services system in Maine (referred to as the "Reengineering Study") identified turnover of caseworkers as one of the problem areas identified by multiple stakeholders that should be addressed in the short-term. The study specifically recommended interviewing caseworkers and conducting exit interviews to determine what training, support, or other strategic activities might assist with retention (Workplace Systems Inc., 1996).

To respond to these recommendations, DHS Commissioner Concannon established a workgroup charged with assessing issues related to retention of caseworkers and making recommendations for action to DHS management. This workgroup began meeting in March 1997. At that time, it was agreed that the group saw itself as short-term in nature, and having two purposes. It would be responsible for gathering information on the issue of retention and for making recommendations, some of which could be implemented quickly and others of which might involve more in-depth studies or tackling problems which would take longer to resolve.

Caseworker Retention Workgroup Members:

Freda Bernotavicz (Chair)
Chris Beerits
Mary Dunn
Susan Hanson
Becky Harvey
Phil Schlegel
Dawn Stiles
Carol Watier

This document is the report of the workgroup as presented to Bureau of Child and Family Services (BCFS) Bureau Director, Nancy Carlson.

II. Approach

At the first meeting, a framework was presented to help organize the many factors related to turnover and retention, complex and difficult problems which necessitate a variety of solutions depending on the source of the problem. The factors can be grouped into three major areas: personal, work and agency.

Personal: personal factors connected to caseworkers themselves, their values, expectations, background, motivation and education. Such issues can be addressed by better screening, orientation to the job and training.

Work: factors related to the nature of the work, the client population, societal problems (substance abuse, violence etc.), severity of cases, lack of sense of closure, balance of people work and paperwork, public perception and support of child welfare, interaction with other agencies (police, court and health care system), workload and caseload concerns. Such issues can be addressed by changes in mandates and societal attitudes, public education, increased funding and support from society and the legislature, and improved efficiency of agency systems and procedures.

Agency: factors related to the work environment, structuring of work, organizational climate, supervision, communication within the organization, clarity of policies and procedures, opportunities and resources for professional development and training, and personnel policies. These issues can be addressed by job restructuring; improved administrative, supervisory and leadership patterns; providing opportunities for professional growth, incentives and rewards for longevity, and recognition of good work.

With this framework in mind, workgroup members proceeded to assign responsibilities to carry out the work plan. As information was collected, it was shared between meetings and discussed at the meetings. Through this participatory process, common themes emerged regarding the priority issues and the group made recommendations to address them. The work plan included the following action steps:

1. Gathering data:

Review of the Literature: In addition to a literature search, workgroup members contacted other states (New England States, California, Colorado) and professional organizations (Child Welfare League of America and New England Commissioners Association). They also reviewed the 1983 study of turnover of child welfare caseworkers in Maine and follow-up actions by the Bureau of Child and Family Services.

Survey of Turnover Data: To develop a clearer picture of the scope of the problem in Maine, the group gathered both quantitative and qualitative data. DHS Bureau of Personnel agreed to analyze turnover data for the period 1995 to 1997 to identify patterns of turnover by worker characteristics, such as time on the job, by Region and by Program. They also conducted a telephone survey of caseworkers that have left the Bureau since January 1995 to determine their reasons for leaving and to identify factors that would have encouraged them to stay. Ninety-one (91) names of former caseworkers were submitted. Twenty-eight (28) of these had left because of retirement or because they had been dismissed on probation or for disciplinary reasons (14). Forty-nine (49) of the remainder could not be reached. Eighteen (18) people were interviewed. The survey was designed to address the areas identified through the literature review. However, the initial questions related to the reasons for leaving the agency, and the questions regarding what workers liked most and least about their jobs at BCFS were deliberately open-ended to avoid cueing respondents.

Feedback from Staff: The group agreed that an extensive survey of current staff would not be realistic at this time given the workload and the fact that so much energy needed to be devoted to implementation of MACWIS (the Maine SACWIS system). Instead, workgroup members conducted an informal polling of colleagues. Information from the experienced caseworker seminars conducted by CWTI for the last three years provided an additional source of data.

2. Assessing Data:

The workgroup identified common themes from the data gathered and established priorities for recommendations.

3. Making Recommendations:

Recognizing system and resource constraints, the workgroup agreed to organize recommendations as follows:
  • areas that may be changed with some effort and attention (such as providing training for experienced staff and caseworkers and addressing agency climate issues);
  • areas that may not be productive to address (such as the size and nature of the caseload);
  • areas that are collective bargaining issues and therefore not appropriate for this group to address (such as mileage reimbursement).

The recommendations included in this report relate only to the first category and are further divided into short-term and long-term recommendations.

III. Priority Issues

The issue of child welfare caseworker retention has been studied extensively as shown by the listing of articles in the bibliography. To clarify the problem, the issues were grouped into the three components described above: Person, Work and Agency (which was further subdivided into Work Environment, Personnel and Staff Development). These factors emerged from the review of the literature and were supported by the informal survey of current staff conducted by the workgroup. The major factors and recommendations related to child welfare caseworker retention are summarized in the chart on the following page.

1. Personal:

Some studies have focused on the characteristics of the caseworkers themselves to develop profiles of those most likely to stay or leave. Balfour and Neff (1993) identified five factors as predictors of turnover: tenure, experience, internship, education and overtime. Those most like to stay are caseworkers with bachelor's degrees with at least two years of service in the agency, preceded by relevant experience in the field and/or an internship with a children's services agency. Where there are few pay differentials and limited opportunities for advancement (as in most social service agencies), caseworkers are less likely to leave if they are able to accumulate overtime and its attendant benefits in pay or vacation time. Those most likely to leave are caseworkers new to the agency (less than 2 years) with no previous experience or internship with a human services agency, those with master's degrees and those who have relatively few opportunities for overtime.

Rycraft (1994), arguing that employees' reasons for staying are of equal if not more importance than their reasons for leaving, explored the reasons for staying of 23 child welfare workers in a public agency. Sixty-one percent held a social work degree (eight with an MSW and six with a BSW) supporting the findings of lower turnover rates among caseworkers with social work training (Russell, 1987). Four primary factors were identified as influencing employee retention in public child welfare: mission, goodness of fit, supervision and investment.

An extensive study of 768 children's services workers in Louisiana (Ellett et al., 1996), was designed to explore three interrelated factors: who comes to work in child welfare and with what credentials (selection), who leaves and why (turnover) and who stays and why (retention). Findings showed that the major sources of dissatisfaction were organizational factors: low work morale, paperwork, lack of clerical support, administrative policies, procedures and lack of support of employees. Four key variables differentiated those most likely to leave the agency: perceptions of promotional and career opportunities; self efficacy motivation (energy and persistence in overcoming obstacles to accomplish goals); evaluations of personal job competence needed to work efficiently/effectively; and personal responsiveness to the needs of clients (doing for others).

Balfour & Neff
Rycraft (1994)
Ellett & et al (1996)
Texas CPS (1997)
McNeely (1988)
Helfgott (1991)
Maine Turnover
Study (1982)
BCFS Staff
Survey of
Sense of Mission,
Person/Job Fit
Doing for others;
Sense of Mission
(seeing families),
Making a difference
Clerical Support; Paperwork
Job Stress
Worker Safety
Professional Liability
Resources to meet client needs;
Realistic Workloads
Court Support,
Case Consultation,
Community Support,
Workload Study,
Backup Support,
Court Preparation & Clerical Support,
Additional Attorneys,
Paperwork Study
Reduce Caseload,
Backup Support,
Clerical Support,
Reduce Paperwork
Managing Workload

Work Environment
Quality Circles
Culturally Supportive,
Affirmation & Recognition,
Participation in Management,
Competent Supervision
Support Case Decisions,
Peer Support,
Feedback & Recognition,
Physical Environment,
Change Management,
Agency Support,
Peer Support
Agency Support,
Agency Climate,
Competent Supervision
Career Opportunities
Flexible Benefits,
Job Share,
Leisure Share
Building Careers,
Performance-based Evaluation,
Financial Compensation,
Employee Benefits,
Flexible Work Schedules
Team Approach,
Competent Supervision
Recognize Senior Workers,
Realistic Performance Expectations,
Professional Development,
Flexible Schedules,
Part-time & Job Share,
Job Rotation
Recognition & Rewards for Seniors,
Realistic Performance Expectations,
Professional Development,
Improved Benefits,
Flexible Schedules,
Job Rotation
Flexible Schedules,
Staff Development
Orientation of
New Staff,
Ongoing Staff Development
Realistic Job Reviews,
Wellness Program,
Changing Role of Caseworkers,
Caseworker Training
Stress/Burnout Training,
Experienced Caseworker Training
Staff Development &Training

Three of these four factors are employee personal characteristics, and only one primarily reflects organizational structure. The key factor in staying was a high level of personal commitment, kept in reasonable balance in one's life.

The authors list the following implications for personnel selection and retention in child welfare:
  • assess personal characteristics that are known to be related to employee retention and survival (e.g. human caring and personal/organizational efficacy);
  • provide stronger mentoring and support for new employees;
  • develop mid-career structures than can encourage and enhance continued job satisfaction, work morale and professional commitment;
  • develop greater opportunities for professional sharing and learning among employees (culture building);
  • redesign organizational/career structures in ways that include greater opportunities for differentiated staffing, credentialing, and promotional opportunities; and
  • develop communications structures than can enhance the quality of relationships with, and positive perspectives of, important constituencies in the external environment (Ellett et al., 1996).

The 1982 study of turnover in child welfare caseworkers in Maine (Bernotavicz et al., 1982) used two types of data collection: a written questionnaire administered to 99 workers and personal interviews with 80 individuals. The questionnaire was designed to collect information on personal factors such as demographics, satisfaction, motivation, expectations and turnover/burnout. Responses to the survey of personal factors indicated that workers seemed highly motivated to perform their roles well. While the majority of workers seemed highly motivated to stay, about a fifth were not.

Some of the most interesting findings related to the workers who reported experiencing burnout to a great or very extent and who tended to be better educated, experienced workers. Over 70% were dissatisfied with the potential for personal growth and achievement offered by the job (compared to about 25% in the sample as a whole) and over 75% said the job was different from what they thought it would be (compared to 50% of the total group). Reasons for burnout were consistent with the group as a whole and reflected a level of frustration at not being able to meet the demands of the job. There was agreement with such statements as "High caseload does not allow me to do the quantity and quality of work I would like; low morale due to administrative expectations and pressures; lack of sufficient resources in communities to make realistic case plans".

In the survey of 18 caseworkers who had left the agency since 1991 conducted by DHS Personnel in 1997, the majority (eleven out of eighteen) stated that their reason for taking the job were that they wanted to work with families and children. About half also stated that pay and job security were the most important reasons. Their commitment to the field is reflected by the fact that ten of the eighteen workers are still in child welfare-related jobs.

When asked about the aspect of the job they liked most, about half identified "child welfare, seeing families". A majority also reflected a sense of efficacy ("doing something important, making a difference"). These responses support the findings of Rycraft (1994) and Ellett et al (1996). The aspects of the job liked least were predominantly related to the work environment: lack of competent supervision, office politics and a distrustful work environment. These issues were also listed as the primary reasons for leaving and a third of the group said that they left because they were burned out or tired out.

Summary: The literature shows there are characteristics of caseworkers that can predict retention:
  • Length of time on the job (people who stay more than two years, tend to stay for several years longer).
  • Prior experience of child welfare work (people with prior experience tend to stay longer).
  • Relevant education (people with degrees in child welfare tend to stay longer).
  • Sense of mission (people with a commitment to working with children and families tend to stay).
  • Sense of efficacy (people who feel that they are making a difference tend to stay).

2. Work:

Recognizing the complex nature of the staffing problem in child welfare, CWLA published a report which compiles methods found successful in improving the recruitment and retention of staff members and provides instruments which can be used to identify and evaluate agency effectiveness (Helfgott, 1991). The report addresses the following areas related to the work: worker safety, professional liability, resources to meet client needs, and realistic workloads.

In a peer exit interview process for departing CPS workers in Texas (Texas Children's Protective Services Training Institute, 1997), safety and critical events were the most important issues. Ninety percent experienced verbal threats, 30% experienced physical attacks and 13% were threatened with weapons. Critical events themselves did not lead to resignations, but their accumulation caused stress. Supervisors and peers were important sources of emotional support, although they appeared to be less available due to increases in unit size and workload demands. While some experienced workers on the Maine workgroup stated that agency support was no longer available in crisis situations, neither worker safety nor professional liability appeared to be major issues related to worker turnover in Maine.

In the 1982 Study of Turnover of caseworkers in Maine, several recommendations were made regarding the workload: conducting a workload study; providing backup support, court preparation and clerical support; and conducting a paperwork study. In addition, three recommendations were made relative to resources to meet client needs: court support, community support and case consultation. The latter group did not appear to be important at this time in either the comments of current staff or the survey of those who have left the agency.

Feedback from current staff identified workloads as the most critical area in retaining caseworkers. As one workgroup member noted: "Caseworkers who are initially successful at the job are able to take charge of situations and bring crises, drift, and chaos under control. As the number of cases increases, this becomes harder to do. These 'can-do' caseworkers then become increasingly frustrated by excessive workload. Eventually some precipitating event pushes them to transfer or resign."

The majority in the 1997 survey of workers who had left said that workload was a factor in their leaving. They felt they could not currently do an adequate job with clients because of the enormous demands for paperwork. The need to juggle one at the expense of the other was demoralizing. For many, trying to plan their workload was difficult due to the crisis nature of the work. For a few, cases were "dumped" on them either because they were good at their jobs or a case needed to be dispatched. Words such as "horrendous", "overwhelming" and "nuts" were used to describe the workload. Over two thirds reported that their post-DHS workload is less. Although some had the same amount of work to do in their new job, the fact that it could be organized and structured made it seem doable.

Current staff had four types of recommendations related to the workload: reducing the caseload, delegation of tasks and activities to case aides, increasing clerical support and reducing the paperwork.

Summary: Several factors have been identified in the literature related to the work including safety, resources and community support. However, in Maine, the most critical issue relates to managing the workload.

3. Agency:

Rycraft's study (1994) points out the significant role the agency performs in a caseworker's decision to continue employment in public child welfare. A caseworker's sense of mission can be enhanced during tenure with an agency; the deployment of staff is within the control of the agency; the provision of supervision is the responsibility of the agency; and staff working conditions, compensation, and benefits are an integral part of administrative practice. The agency role can be divided into three areas: work environment, personnel and staff development.

Work Environment: Many factors related to the work environment were identified both in the CWLA report (1991) and the Maine Turnover Study (1982). However, the 1997 data focuses on only four: agency support, peer support, agency climate and competent supervision. Of the eighteen caseworkers interviewed, two-thirds said that lack of support from the Department was a major factor in their decision to leave. Peers, on the other hand, were seen as a great source of support. For the vast majority, peers were helpful and struggling with the same issues. Over two-thirds of those who left said that there was nothing their peers could have done differently to encourage them to stay. This finding is supported by the research of Koeske and Koeske (1989) who found that while demanding work loads were associated with burnout, the most critical condition was low social support, particularly low coworker support compounded by a sense of being ineffective with clients.

The issue of the role of the supervisor appears to be critical. Supervisors set the climate for workers and are able to provide the environment that encourages a good person/job fit. For some caseworkers a supportive relationship with their supervisor was their reason for staying, for others the autonomy provided by a detached relationship was a major motivator. Supervisors can act as gatekeepers, providing space for workers to accomplish their work; or they can overload workers by failing to set priorities or assign work fairly. Supervisors can help develop workers and mentor them through the crisis period when they are considering leaving the agency.

The data from the 1997 survey is somewhat contradictory on this issue. Eleven respondents gave lack of supervisory/administrative support and/or poor or no supervision as their primary reasons for leaving and seven stated that they would have been encouraged to stay had their supervisor been more supportive. On the other hand, nine said that the supervisor could not have done anything differently to encourage them to stay.

Personnel: This category includes the following: recognition and rewards for longevity, professional development, improved benefits, flexible schedules and respite. Several specific recommendations were made to provide incentives for caseworkers to stay with the agency and to provide opportunities for professional growth and development. A number of benefits were also identified, though since these are negotiable issues, the workgroup has not addressed them in the recommendations. Several people had suggestions regarding flexible schedules (such as flextime or job-sharing) which are formally available but, in practice, rarely approved. The stress of child welfare work is well documented in the literature. This is compounded by the fact that there is very little sense of closure and by the pace of the work. Workers who left the agency stated that while their workload was comparable, it was more manageable and therefore less stressful.

Staff Development: Staff development and training can be powerful incentives for people to stay on the job. Some of the clearest data in the survey of those who left related to opportunities for educational leave to pursue an MSW. Ninety percent indicated that paid educational leave would have encouraged them to stay and over sixty percent said that unpaid educational leave would have encouraged them to stay. While most rated the training opportunities as very good and the atmosphere supportive of learning, the workload often prevented participation in training.

One of the most frequent recommendations from current staff was for more training options for experienced caseworkers, including attendance at out-of-state conferences. The Child Welfare Training Institute (CWTI) workshop for experienced caseworkers has proved to be so popular that there is a waiting list every year, and because slots are assigned based on seniority, this workshop is currently available only to those workers who have been employed for more than seven years.

Summary: The results of the data analysis are clear that the agency itself is the key to caseworker retention.
  • While peers are a great source of support, Department administration and supervisors can do more to provide a supportive work environment to encourage people to stay.
  • Personnel can encourage retention through a number of supportive policies including recognition and rewards for longevity, promoting professional growth, more flexible working conditions (flex-time, job rotation and respite) and by providing compensation and benefits competitive with private and non-profit agencies.
  • Opportunities for training and professional development can promote retention both through the content of the offerings (stress reduction) and through the recognition and respite of the experience.

IV. Recommendations

The following recommendations are organized according to the key issues identified through the data-gathering process. For each issue, short-term and long-term recommendations are presented.

1. Personal:

The review of the literature suggests that several characteristics of workers influence whether they stay in public child welfare. Predictors of those who stay are people with related child welfare experience, particularly an internship in child welfare, those with related education (i.e. a BSW), those with commitment to the field and a sense of self-efficacy. These findings have implications for screening and selection of caseworkers, including orientation and realistic job previews.

Short-term Recommendations:

#1: Screen for characteristics which predict retention. Review the current screening process to determine whether or not these characteristics are adequately addressed. If not, develop questions to screen for them.

Long-term Recommendations:

#1: Assess impact of participation in Field Instruction Units on retention.
Continue the evaluation of the Field Instruction Units to determine whether caseworkers with experience in the FIU are more likely to remain with the agency. An important measure of success is that graduates get hired and stay longer. Given the findings from the literature, the program should predict retention. If not, the cost effectiveness of the program should be assessed.

#2: Evaluate characteristics assessed in screening process that predict retention.
Continue predictive validity study of Caseworker screening process to determine which competencies can predict retention.

2. Work:

The most salient issue identified in the category of work was the unrealistic workload. The workgroup agreed that a recommendation to hire more caseworkers would not be acceptable to Department management and therefore focused recommendations on working smarter, i.e. addressing system problems which make the caseworker workload unmanageable.

Short-term Recommendations:

#1: Conduct a pilot program to reduce time spent by caseworkers on service negotiation and payment.
Issue RFP's for services from providers who are traditionally sought and referred to by regional caseworkers. Then purchase services statewide through a contract to allow the Bureau to require specific services within specific time frames and specific outcomes, thus freeing up caseworkers from having to "shop" for providers. Purchasing through a contract would also allow for greater efficiencies and consistencies and give the caseworker more "clout" when dissatisfied. Conduct a pilot study with selected contracts, including a process for checking with providers and evaluation of regional response.

#2: Implement recommendations of the 1997 Judicial Symposium to move children more expeditiously through the system.
Establish a workgroup to monitor implementation of the recommendations of the 1997 Judicial Symposium.

#3: Reduce the time spent by caseworkers on locating placements for children in DHS care and custody.
Assign responsibility to a Central Office staff member to oversee the exploration of innovative ways to increase the number of foster homes including improved marketing materials and to develop more efficient databases to locate placements.

#4: Place ASPIRE participants in offices to provide backup administrative support.
Provide information to regional managers on ASPIRE program. Request technical assistance from DHSTI staff to screen and train ASPIRE participants in regional offices to provide office support (e.g. arranging transportation, organizing case records, filing).

Long-term Recommendations:

#1: Re-engineer the Payments Process
Hire a consultant to develop a simplified system of authorization for medical/clinical services with uniform rates and to review and simplify policy for payment of costs for children in foster care. Coordinate with MACWIS to take advantage of automation. Require a checkbook for subpoenas in each district office.

#2: Eliminate regional review of transportation bills.
Fund transportation contracts at a level that will eliminate the need for regions to use/process contingency funds to pay for child/family transportation needs. Develop a spot auditing function to assure accountability. When MACWIS is operational, it will be possible to individualize records to allow IV-E reimbursement.

#3: Place MSW students in offices to provide program support.
Request CWTI Professional Development Committee to develop a plan to establish
placements for MSW students in regional offices for FY 1998-99.

#4: Train Mental Health providers to work effectively with Child Welfare system.
Work with Mental Health providers on the Gelles model regarding making a decision earlier to curtail treatment to people without capacity or willingness to change. Explore the design of a certificate program for Mental Health providers on Child Welfare issues and system.

#5: Provide administrative support for authorization and payments.
In each office establish a clerk or case aide "specialist" to facilitate and troubleshoot the authorization and payments process for caseworkers and providers. This is already being done in some offices, and it provides caseworkers with significant relief.

3. Agency:

The stress of the job and the workload can be mitigated if workers feel supported by the agency, which includes Central Office, personnel policies and practices, and most particularly by their supervisor. The recommendations in this section are presented in three categories: agency support, personnel, and training and professional development.

Agency Support:

Short-term Recommendations:

#1: Help supervisors support new caseworkers through the two-three year transition period.
Request CWTI to develop a plan to provide training or clinical consultation to supervisors in preparing new caseworkers for their crisis of commitment after two years on the job as well as how to maximize their staff's ability to move through it smoothly.

#2: Provide a supportive climate for debriefing traumatic situations
Develop a plan and identify resources and protocols for debriefing traumatic situations. Offer regional workshops delivered by CWTI trainers to PA's, supervisors, and experienced caseworkers. For resources use regional allocation to rent space, Mark Horowitz materials and critical incident protocol which should include informing and coordinating with Central Office.


Short-term Recommendations:

#1: Provide recognition and rewards for longevity.
Convene a workgroup to explore options for establishing a mentor or master caseworker position for Child & Family Service, and/or cash bonus or merit increase for workers at end of three year period. Other rewards could be resources and support to attend conferences out-of-state.

#2: Disseminate information on options for unpaid educational leave.
Disseminate information on policy and alternatives for unpaid educational leave (i.e. schedule adjustment; partial or full-time unpaid leave [with option of voluntary cost saving to continue health insurance benefits]). Clarify the process and conditions under which unpaid leave may be approved.

#3: Support the use of flexible work schedules.
Alternative schedule options (compressed workweek, flextime schedule and job-sharing) are options available which could encourage some caseworkers to stay on the job. Provide information to workers and supervisors regarding the options and provide agency support to implement them where appropriate.

#4: Continue gathering data on retention through exit interviews of caseworkers.
Contact each former caseworker 2 to 3 months after their departure using the questionnaire already developed. Compile and forward results to CWTI and the BCFS Bureau Director. Conduct second interview after a year and note changes from the previous interview. BCFS, Personnel and CWTI review data on a regular basis to evaluate management goals and retention issues.

#5: Authorize non-emergency overtime pay.
On a pilot basis, authorize limited funds for non-emergency overtime pay to allow caseworkers (a) to get caught up or (b) move children to permanency faster.

#6: Conduct a salary/benefits survey of child welfare caseworkers in public and private agencies in Maine.
Conduct a survey of caseworker salaries and benefits in Maine comparing salaries and benefits of DHS caseworkers versus private agency caseworkers.
Responsibility: Phil Schlegel

Long-term Recommendations:

#1: Develop a plan which will allow caseworkers to take educational leave to complete MSW degrees and ensure that their work is covered in their absence.
Develop a plan for educational leave and support in exchange for commitment to stay with the job. Include recommendations on back-filling positions while workers are on leave and options for meeting internship requirements.

#2: Strengthen the role of the supervisor.
Develop a collaborative action plan on strengthening the role of the supervisor. Include criteria for promotion, orientation and training for new supervisors, mentoring and peer support. Develop a BCFS/CWTI initiative on the teaching role of the supervisor and supervising the worker rather than the case. Include a plan for required training.

#3: Provide opportunities for caseworker sabbaticals for independent study after two years on the job.
Develop a policy to provide a sabbatical of four weeks of independent study on a topic of their choice in child welfare or a related field using the same standards for documentation as for Social Worker Licensing. Establish a pay-back agreement to work for DHS for an additional eighteen months following the sabbatical. Any caseworker in good standing would be eligible for the sabbatical and can apply every two years.

Training and Professional Development

Short-term Recommendations:

#1: Provide workshops to help caseworkers bridge the two-three year transition period.
Request CWTI to develop a listing of staff by hire date and to provide a plan for training including reflective practice as regional workshops at two year level, stress/burnout prevention workshops and reunions of caseworker preservice groups.

#2: Incorporate findings from retention literature into training for supervisors.
Provide information to CWTI trainers to address the role of the supervisor in promoting retention in the new supervisors' orientation and the graduate course offered through the University of Maine in the spring semester.

4. Other

The following were identified by staff but, since they are negotiable items, they are not addressed in this report:
  • Reclassification of child welfare caseworkers to a salary range more competitive with private sector jobs.
  • Providing cafeteria benefits which would include a range of options in the benefit package which can be tailored to meet individual needs (e.g. choice of health insurance, life insurance, child care expenses etc.).
  • Automobile allowance (like telephone allowance) to reimburse for the extensive use needed for the child welfare caseworker job.
  • Department to pay for Social Work License.

V. References

Balfour, D.L. & Neff, D.M. (1993). Predicting and managing turnover in human service agencies: a case study of an organization in crisis. Public Personnel Management, 22 (3), 473-486.

Bernotavicz, F., et al. (1982). Study to address turnover in child welfare caseworkers. Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Human Services Development Institute.

Ellett, C.D., Ellett, A.J., Kelley, B.L. & Noble, D.N. (1996). A statewide study of child welfare personnel needs: Who stays? Who leaves? Who cares? Paper presented at the 42nd Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education, Washington, D.C.

Helfgott, K.P. (1991). Staffing the child welfare agency: recruitment and retention. Washington, D.C.: Child Welfare League of America.

Koeske, G.F. & Koeske, R.D. (1989). Work load and burnout: can social support and perceived accomplishment help? Social Work. May, 1989, 243-248.

Russell, M. (1987). National Study of Public Child Welfare Job Requirements. Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Human Services Development Institute.

Rycraft, J.R. (1994). The party isn't over: the agency role in the retention of public child welfare caseworkers. Social Work. 39(1), 75-80.

Texas Children's Protective Services Training Institute (1997). When workers can't take it. Child Protection Connection. IV(2).

Workplace Systems Inc. (1996). Reengineering Study. Augusta, ME.