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Working Together to Support a Strong Child Welfare Workforce

As part of an ongoing series on Colorado’s early childhood workforce, and in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention month, the ECCP invited Lorendia Schmidt, CAPTA Administrator with the CDHS Department of Children, Youth & Families, to highlight the challenges and opportunities faced by Colorado’s child welfare workforce. Read on as Lorendia shares potential connections and learnings to support the early childhood workforce across early care and education and child welfare.

 

by Lorendia Schmidt

When I was asked to write this post about turnover in the child welfare system, I first went to the ECCP blog to read the installments by Tami Havener and Kristina Mueller for some inspiration and guidance. What I found was a reminder of how similar the challenges are between the early care and education and child welfare systems. Re-read their blogs and replace each instance of “teacher” or “educator” with “child welfare caseworker;” you’ll find that everything they say about turnover in early care and education applies to child welfare:

 

  • Children thrive with consistent and stable adults in their life;
  • Many communities lack an effective, consistent workforce in whom families can place their trust;
  • Over time, there are increasing state regulations for both caseworker qualifications and job expectations;
  • We consistently lose good caseworkers to better paying, less demanding jobs; and,
  • We need to recruit, retain, compensate, and support the child welfare workforce.

A cross-systems work group within the Colorado Department of Human Services recently released recommendations for system-level change that may prevent maltreatment in children five and under.  The group recognized the importance of cross-systems collaboration, but also acknowledged that high turnover is the biggest barrier. The following is an excerpt from their final report:

“When rates of turnover are high, individual agencies are constantly recruiting, hiring, and training new staff, while also covering vacant position workloads. These activities render professionals unable to engage in the relationship-building that supports cross-system collaboration. In addition, the cost of worker turnover is staggering. The Applied Research in Child Welfare (ARCH) at Colorado State University is in the process of analyzing 10 years of child welfare employment data across Colorado. From 2005-2015, seven of the ten largest Colorado counties had an average turnover rate of 29.7% within intake teams, with a total of 648 workers leaving intake positions over the 10 year period (ARCH, draft, 2016). With a conservative estimate of $54,000 per new hire (NCWII, 2016), this has cost Colorado over $35 million dollars in the last ten years in only seven of Colorado’s 64 counties.”

Just like in early care and education, turnover in child welfare is an urgent matter. We all work with the same families and ultimately have the same desire: for children to thrive in their homes and in their communities. How can we learn from one another? How can we share limited resources to support a high-quality, consistent work force across the various sectors of the early childhood system?

Stay tuned for another installment in the workforce series from the child welfare caseworker perspective, coming soon!

Supporting a Strong Early Childhood Workforce in Colorado

by Kristina Mueller, Early Childhood Leadership Commission Director

kmuellereccpblogWe know that when children are cared for in stable, quality environments with supportive, well-trained educators, they are better able to reach their full potential and be prepared to succeed throughout their life.

Colorado’s professional development system for early childhood educators has soared over the past several years thanks to the work of the Colorado Department of Human Services – Office of Early Childhood and the Department of Education, along with all of our partners throughout Colorado.

However, many communities still lack an effective, consistent workforce in whom families can place their trust and with whom young children can thrive.

That’s why the state of Colorado is working together to develop and implement sustainable strategies to help recruit, retain, compensate, and support the early childhood professional workforce.

The Early Childhood Leadership Commission has prioritized “Elevating the Early Childhood Workforce” as one of its three main focus areas for the next several years.  Through the work of the EC Professional Development Advisory Working Group, we are using research, stakeholder input, and local and state expertise to create the State’s next generation EC Workforce and Professional Development Plan, which was originally created in 2010.

Taking this work further, Colorado is participating in the Incubation to Innovation (i2I) project with the National Academy of Medicine through an innovative and exciting public/private partnership including Early Milestones Colorado, the Colorado Department of Education, and the Colorado Department of Human Services, along with philanthropic partners Gary Community Investments and the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation. Over the next several years this group will develop sustainable and varied approaches to recruit, retain, compensate, and support a well-qualified workforce through research, planning, and pilots that will lead to the spread of practices and policies throughout the state.

More information on this work can be found on the website at http://coloradoecworkforce.org.

Once again, Colorado is leading the way by working to find sustainable, supportive methods to support our early childhood professionals and provide better environments for our children.  We look forward to working together to develop and implement this exciting work!

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