Child Welfare Workforce Issues

Resources from the T/TA Network & Children’s Bureau


  • Ten Years of Workforce and Leadership Development Initiatives, Training and Technical Assistance Activities, and Related Products: A Resource Guide 2000-2010 
    The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) has developed a Resource Guide of the workforce and leadership development resources that have been created and initiated over the last ten years by members of the Children’s Bureau Training and Technical Assistance Network. These resources provide States and Tribes with a broad range of timely expertise, knowledge and information-sharing, helping States and Tribes support and strengthen child welfare leadership and improve the quality and capacity of the child welfare workforceThis publication provides summary information about these important resources, offering States, Tribes and members of the T/TA Network
  • Workforce Issues in Child Welfare
    This NRCPFC information packet discusses individual, supervisory, and organizational issues faced by child welfare agencies, and provides best practices for addressing these issues.  The publication also includes relevant facts and statistics, policies and legislation, model programs, and additional resources.  Written by Teija Sudol. (August 2009)

Teleconferences, Webinars, and Webcasts

  • NRCPFC Teleconference- Secondary Trauma: Building Resilience Among Child Welfare Staff
    In this NRCPFC teleconference/webinar, Erika Tullberg (Executive Director Clinical Systems and Support, New York City Administration for Children’s Services), Fernando Lorence (Child Protective Manager, New York City Administration for Children’s Services), and Phoebe Nesmith (Supervisor 11, Child Protective Division, New York City Administration for Children’s Services) addressed the issue of secondary trauma in child welfare staff and the necessity to build resiliency.  The presentation reviewed data on secondary traumatic stress of child welfare staff and reviewed interventions designed to increase staff resiliency and reduce burnout. (May 12, 2010)


  • Learning & Living Leadership: NCWWI Tool Kit
    This National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) tool kit, based on the NCWWI Leadership Model, supports the transfer of competencies in their Leadership Model, and is applicable to any leadership development program. The tool kit offers 90 activities and worksheets across 5 different domains to address 30 leadership competencies. It also includes a detailed guide to implement the toolkit. NCWWI encourages tool kit users to craft a personalized leadership plan to develop the competencies most important to them in their work at their own agencies. (September 2013)


Research & Reports

  • A Children's Services Corps: Lessons from Teach For America For Building the Child Welfare Workforce
    Struck by the similar challenges facing the education and child welfare systems, the Center for the Study of Social Policy conducted a feasibility study of the applicability of the Teach For America (TFA) model to child welfare. This paper argues that TFA's theory of change and organizational experiences thus far provide a springboard for redefining the child welfare system and its workforce. In a relatively short period of time, TFA has transformed the image of the teaching profession through its teacher corps efforts, alumni development, and partnership with communities and the private and nonprofit sectors. Informed by a May 2008 Round Table discussion with stakeholders in education, public service and child welfare, this paper assesses the potential of a Children's Services Corps (CSC), based on the TFA model, to catalyze positive change in the child welfare system. The paper offers practical lessons for child welfare systems based on the TFA experience and proposes options for the future. Sponsoring Organization: Cornerstones for Kids. (July 2009)
  • Agency Workforce Estimation: Simple Steps for Improving Child Safety and Permanency 
    This article from the National Council on Crime & Delinquency’s (NCCD) Children’s Research Center (CRC) briefly reviews research findings that link adequate staffing to improved child safety and well-being, and presents approaches for evaluating agency workforce needs and managing workforce capacity.  It illustrates how agency managers can accomplish the following: (a) identify common symptoms of agency understaffing; (b) estimate existing workforce capacity; and (c) estimate agency workload demand and understaffing. Authored by Dennis Wagner, Kristen Johnson, and Theresa Healy. (April 2009)
  • Agency Workforce Estimation: A Step Toward More Effective Workload Management
    This article from the Children’s Research Center (CRC) of the National Council on Crime & Delinquency (NCCD) reviews findings linking adequate staffing to improved child safety and well being.  It outlines steps that can be taken by child welfare administrators to both evaluate and manage the workload capacity of their agencies.  Written by Dennis Wagner, Kristin Johnson, and Theresa Healy. (November 2008)
  • Recruitment and Retention of Child Welfare Social Workers in Rural Communities
    In this literature review by the Northern California Training Academy at the University of California Davis Extension, Center for Human Services, factors influencing both the recruitment and retention of rural social workers are identified. (June 2007)

  • Improving the Child Welfare Workforce: Lessons Learned from Class Action Litigation 
    The recruitment, preparation, support and retention of public and private child welfare staff working with abused and neglected children and families are important ongoing concerns. Class action litigation focusing on reforming public child welfare systems across the country has often included efforts to improve the child welfare workforce. Children’s Rights, in collaboration with the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and with support from Cornerstones for Kids, conducted a review of efforts to strengthen the child welfare workforce in the context of class action litigation in 12 jurisdictions across the nation. Children’s Rights and NCYL interviewed 74 key stakeholders in these jurisdictions about the provisions related to workforce issues that are included in the court orders in these cases, the progress made, and the barriers that have hindered success. The report includes recommendations addressing ways to enhance the process of reforming the child welfare workforce and reform strategies, as well as detailed information regarding specific activities and steps to improve the workforce. (February 2007)
  • Improving Social Service Program, Training, and Technical Assistance Information Would Help Address Long-standing Service-Level and Workforce Challenges 
    In response to a survey by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), states identified three primary challenges as most important to resolve to improve outcomes for children under their supervision: providing an adequate level of services for children and families, recruiting and retaining caseworkers, and finding appropriate homes for certain children. State officials also identified three challenges of increasing concern over the next 5 years: children's growing exposure to illegal drugs, increased demand to provide services for children with special needs, and changing demographic trends or cultural sensitivities in providing services for some groups of children in the states' child welfare systems. This report includes GAO recommendations for meeting those challenges. (October 2006)
  • Child Welfare Workforce: Implications for the Private Nonprofit Sector 
    The recommendations in this paper represent actions that private, public, and academic organizations can undertake individually and collaboratively to create state and national solutions for child welfare workforce issues in the private sector. Prepared by the Alliance for Children and Families; Commissioned by Cornerstones for Kids. (June 2006)
  • Assuring the Sufficiency of a Frontline Workforce: A National Study of Licensed Social Workers. Special Report: Social Work Services for Children and Families.
    This report is one of six prepared as part of a national study of licensed social workers conducted by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in partnership with the Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) of the School of Public Health at the University at Albany. It summarizes and interprets the responses of social workers serving children and their families obtained through a national sample survey of licensed social workers in the U.S. conducted in 2004. The information will support the development of effective workforce policies and strategies to assure the availability of adequate numbers of social workers prepared to respond to the growing needs of children and their families in the U.S. (2006)
  • Professional Development 
    The focus of this issue of The Evaluation Exchange from the Harvard Family Research Project is on evaluating professional development across a range of fields, including after school and youth development, education, child care, and child welfare. The issue features innovative methods in professional development, conceptual frameworks and practical tools for evaluating professional development, links between professional development and program quality, and the role of organizational contexts in supporting professional development and positive outcomes. (Winter 2005/2006)

Three issue briefs were also developed by this project:


  • Ideas to Prevent Pathways to Burnout in Child Welfare Services
    In this publication, the potential impact of worker burnout on practice with children and families is explored.  It discusses primary pathways to burnout or reasons that workers become disengaged, provides information on organizational resilience, and offers suggestions for ways to prevent or address the various pathways to burnout.  Written by Karen Martin, LCSW. (2011)
  • Recruitment and Retention of Child Welfare Staff: Competency-Based Screening Design Process 
    Competency-based screening is central to effective recruitment, screening and selection. This resource serves as an example of how a competency-based screening may be designed by presenting the process undergone by the Maine Recruitment and Retention Project.  Available from the Child Welfare Training Institute (CWTI), part of the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. (2008)
  • Promoting Child Welfare Workforce Improvements through Federal Policy Changes 
    This project from the Children’s Defense Fund and Children’s Rights, Inc. identifies and describes the essential components of an effective child welfare workforce and identifies federal policy improvements that could help promote a quality, effective child welfare workforce. Click here for selected references used for this project. (2007)

The following resources were also published as part of the project above:

  • Developing Models of Effective Child Welfare Staff Recruitment and Retention Training 
    In 2003 the Children's Bureau funded eight five-year projects to explore this issue. The purpose of this priority area was to develop, field test, revise, implement, evaluate, and disseminate an effective and comprehensive training curriculum and model for recruiting and retaining a competent work force in public child welfare agencies.  The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides information and summaries of projects for the following grantees:
    • Fordham University, Graduate School of Social Service
    • Michigan State University School of Social Work
    • State University of New York at Albany, School of Social Welfare
    • Butler Institute for Families, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work
    • University of Iowa, School of Social Work
    • University of Michigan, School of Social Work
    • Jordan Institute for Families at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • University of Southern Maine


  • The Retention of Public Child Welfare Workers 
    This curriculum from the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWE) is intended to help child welfare workers, administrators, and policy-makers increase the job retention of public child welfare caseworkers. (2006)
  • Staff Retention in Child and Family Services 
    The purpose of this training series of workbooks from the Michigan State University School of Social Work is to increase child and family service agencies' effectiveness in developing and retaining their staff by applying information from research and best retention practices to their work. Workbooks are available to download.


Their website also contains the following resources relevant to child welfare workforce issues:

    • Child Welfare Workload Compendium 
      Child Welfare Information Gateway's Child Welfare Workload Compendium, a searchable database of State and local child welfare workload initiatives, was created to help public child welfare managers, administrators, and policymakers address workload issues by providing information and tools to improve workload management.

    • Realistic Job Previews (RJPs)
      RJPs are developed by States to present current and potential child welfare workers with a balanced view of the rewards and demands of child welfare positions.  This area of the Gateway features RJP videos and supplemental materials from different states.

  • Child Welfare League of America Workforce Development Initiative 
    Since 1999, the Walker Trieschman Center has led CWLA's efforts to seek solutions for the workforce shortage in the child welfare field, and currently houses the organization's Workforce Development Initiative. This initiative is guided and supported by a National Advisory Committee and is building the field's capacity to comprehensively address immediate and long-term workforce issues. These efforts have included linking all of the program areas and other CWLA initiatives that directly or indirectly involve the workforce.

  • National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement
    The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI) is a service of the Children’s Bureau and member of the Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) Network.  The NRCOI provides T/TA, research, and evaluations to assist agencies to improve management and operations, expand organizational capacity and promote service integration.  This area of their website focuses on workforce issues.
  • National Child Welfare Workforce Institute 
    The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI), a Service of the Children’s Bureau (ACF/DHHS), supports the capacity building of the child welfare workforce trough development of effective and promising practices, facilitating leadership training, administering BSW and MSW traineeships, and supporting information sharing and collaboration.
  • CONNECT: Your Child Welfare Internet Community
    CONNECT is a social networking site developed and hosted by the Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center, a service of the Children’s Bureau and a member of the Training/Technical Assistance Network. CONNECT was designed exclusively for people who work in the child welfare community at the state, tribal, county, and federal levels. CONNECT allows you to find people who are doing the same child welfare job you are doing in another place. It may be a worker in another part of your own state, or someone in another system, state or tribe. You can share thoughts and ideas, frustrations and satisfactions, and documents or slide shows with your peers. Whether you are an administrator at the top of your agency or a worker on the front lines, CONNECT can help you learn new ways to look at things or can validate your current practices. You and the children you serve can benefit from better connections and from the support of your peers. 


Last updated 1/30/14