High rates of employee turnover are well documented at many levels of the public child welfare
system. Worker turnover carries enormous costs for the agency. It has a direct fiscal cost in that
the investment made in training and enhancing the skill of the worker is lost. It disrupts progress
in work with a family, so it has clinical costs. It spreads cases to other workers, causing both a
slowing of work and, potentially, safety and morale issues among the workforce. In addition,
supervisors charged with the task of training and guiding field workers on a day-to-day basis
suffer secondary trauma when faced with ongoing loss of these workers. However, monetary benefits
are not sufficient to retain all employees in the field of public child welfare. Child welfare
agencies must provide support and training to enable new employees to do their job competently.
Research indicates that supportive supervision, recognition and a sense of competency are the most decisive factors for retention and professional growth.2 The American Public Human Services Association Retention Tip Sheet and the
Child Welfare Information Gateway Retention Tools webpage are two great sources of additional
information on workforce retention.
Reward, recognition and compensation provide intrinsic satisfaction and contribute to individual
self-fulfillment and self-esteem that can, in turn, enhance agency capacity building. Compensation
systems allow compensatory pay increases and/or bonuses for performance. Frequently, public child
welfare agencies are bound by civil service pay scale systems that preclude the ability to
financially reward excellent performance. Rewards and recognition can still be used as motivational
tools. Agency leaders can fashion opportunities for workers’ contributions and high productivity to
be publicly recognized within the agency and in the community.
Example: Exemplary work can be recognized openly and can be appreciated even with little or no financial awards.
Workforce retention requires looking at how non-occupational factors affect the development and
productivity of staff. These work- life balance factors include the worker’s leisure and
recreational time spent alone and with family, as well as attending to one’s own physical and
mental health. The agency should support workers in constructing a healthy work-life balance. This
is best addressed by educating the workforce regarding self care. However, the entire spectrum of
options must be considered. If resources are available for providing recreational facilities
on-site or in cooperation with a local facility, this is a significant