Children Worth Fighting For?

As I write this post, I cannot help but feel very disheartened.  I have been a Child Protective Service Worker in my county for over five years. Recently, my county commissioners have funded capital improvements, paid off the mortgage to our building twenty years early, purchased new chairs and carpet, and replaced our phone system.  The same commissioners refuse to invest equitable resources in the very people who protect and serve the children of our community.  We are experiencing high turnover, defeated morale, and a general distrust between Caseworkers and Management. Simultaneously we have greatly expanded our responsibilities with minimal training to be competent in our new roles.  We could be doing anything else with our careers, but we choose Child Welfare because we love the work, we love the children, and we care about the stability of our crumbling community.  The lack of respect for the work that we do from our elected officials is discouraging …at minimum.

Are These Children Worth Fighting For?

We think so.  We love the children we serve.  Children’s Protective Service Caseworkers have been uniquely gifted to work with families in crisis, build relationships with resistant consumers, and maintain respect and dignity with the families we serve.  All children need stability and consistency.  The children we serve are already in an unstable environment or we wouldn’t be involved with the family in the first place.  Having seasoned, professional, well trained leaders as Child Protective Service Caseworkers is key to providing stability for the children we serve.

Worker Turnover

“Caseworker turnover affects permanency for children by leading to: multiple placements while in foster care, families receiving fewer services, failed reunification efforts, longer lengths of stay in foster care and lower rates of finding permanent homes (CDF & Children’s Rights, 2007).”

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, worker turnover ranges from very little to as high as 90% in one year.  Agencies that invest in their workers through leadership development, equitable pay, and succession planning will be able to retain their workers, who in turn will invest their wisdom and experience in training new caseworkers.

Would you want your teachers, police officers, and fire fighters to be so burnt out they turnover staff every two years?  I sure wouldn’t.

Worker Safety

For this post I had to stop myself from doing too much research about Social Workers that have lost their lives in the line of duty, mostly out of self preservation and my own emotional well-being.  Being armed with a notepad and pen is not sufficient to ensure the safety of caseworkers who must deal with volatile consumers.

The community in which I serve as a Child Protective Service Caseworker, (Dayton, Ohio) has the distinction of being safer then a whopping 3% of all the other cities in the entire United States.  For the math challenged, this means 97% of this great country is safer then the community I live and work in.  Part of my job requirement is to assess the safety of children… wherever they are.  I am required to go into the underbelly of this community, and be present in the homes and neighborhoods of heroin dealers, gangs, domestically violent individuals, mentally ill people, and families struggling with abject poverty and substance abuse.  My coworkers and I have routinely been in neighborhoods where the police will only go with two or more officers and of course the ability to protect themselves in the event of a violent act.  We go because the children of our community need us to ensure their safety.

With the given demands, stresses, and safety risks of our job, it is not too much to ask for fair, equitable compensation and a supportive work environment to continue the work that we are trained to do.

 

Resources

Social Worker Safety Tips To Live By  http://profilesofmurder.com/2013/05/08/social-workers-safety-tips-to-live-by/

Violent Crime and Social Worker Safety http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/exc_032511.shtml

Social Work Salaries  http://socialworklicensemap.com/social-worker-salary/  (Note: The median salary for a child welfare worker in the United States is $41,800, this includes those with Master’s Degrees.)

Average Starting Salary for Grads With Bachelor’s Degrees Rises 2.4 Percent   http://www.naceweb.org/about-us/press/bachelor-degree-starting-salary-rises.aspx  (Note, The average starting salary for college graduates was $45,327 in 2013.)

Worker Turnover   https://www.childwelfare.gov/management/workforce/retention/turnover.cfm

Children’s Defense Fund & Children’s Rights, Inc. (2007).  Promoting child welfare workforce improvements through federal policy changes. The Human Service Workforce Initiative. Cornerstones For Kids.

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