Throughout March, Social Work Month is being celebrated by social work professionals and students across the country. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight how social workers are helping children to remain a part of or find safe and loving families.
One of our former Foster Youth Interns, Christina Miranda, recently spoke at our New Congress Forum to address legislative priorities for this Congress. One of the areas needing reform that she highlighted was the child welfare workforce. Christina said that social workers and caseworkers need more support to achieve the goals of their positions. “Social workers have a major influence on making critical and life changing decisions for families and youth. They need to have skills and training to inform their decision-making and ultimately promote the best interest of children and families.”
Christina went on to explain that as a social worker herself, she has seen the qualifications for caseworker positions vary from state to state, or even between different regions of the same state. “In some localities, you have social workers with a Master of Social Work degree, but in other areas, you have caseworkers doing the same job, but with a Bachelor’s degree in Art.” These caseworkers do not have the educational background to inform their work.
Survey results published in 2005 by APHSA on the child welfare workforce showed that:
- nearly 10% of all child welfare worker positions remain vacant, which requires existing workers to maintain higher caseloads than national or state standards
- the average child protective services worker’s tenure is about 3 years, meaning that some workers are “in foster care” less time than the children they serve
- the average incumbent child welfare caseworker’s salary was about $35,000, which is less than teachers, police officers, firefighters, or other public service positions
While supporting and developing the child welfare workforce is an important part of child welfare reform and promoting better outcomes for youth in care, Christina did not see specialized professional training and support end with social workers. “Everyone from child protection to child welfare administration, from guardian ad litems to family court judges, from state legislators to Members of Congress need to be aware of issues affecting children in foster care.”