At year end we like to take a look over our shoulder at the vast army of social workers who have supported our country's most vulnerable populations throughout the year. The purpose of this annual overview is to tell social workers nationwide that we appreciate the task their profession has undertaken. Last week we looked at the vast mission of HHS workers across the country. This week we're focusing on child welfare workers. We are astounded here at GVT by the magnitude of the need that social workers in all fields attempt to alleviate and find ourselves rededicated to our mission to help the social work community fulfill its mission.
Child Welfare - A Bum Rap
During the year we have noticed that the picture of child welfare agencies seems to have been painted as systems in disarray—comprised of inept and uncaring social workers whose incompetence contributes to children being physically lost, further abused, or even killed. The child welfare literature gives a similar view of a struggling workforce facing unmanageable caseloads, threats of violence, and low salaries. We contend that this is a distortion of the challenges facing our child welfare community.
Child Abuse Status Report
Child abuse is a pervasive problem in America, and the statistics are staggering. The Children's Bureau at HHS' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published a Child maltreatment report based on data collected for fiscal year 2019, which is the latest data available.
- 3,476,000 children were the subject of a CPS investigation in 2019.
- 656,000 were determined to be victims of maltreatment.
- 8% were neglected.
- 7% were abused.
- 0% were sexually abused.
- 15% were victims of two or more maltreatment types.
- 1,840 children died from abuse.
- CPS agencies received an estimated 4.4 million total referrals in 2019.
- The average response time was 4.3 days (measured from receiving the call to making physical contact).
- A total workforce of 29,405 specialized intake and screening workers handled the calls. (Although the statistic is not reported in this way, simple mathematics makes that 150 referrals per child welfare worker.)
- There were 71 CPS responses per worker for 2019.
- A sample by state of referred children who received a response in 2019:
Alabama - 39, 335
California - 343, 126
Florida - 285,141
Michigan - 161,058
Texas - 278,004
New York - 216,016
National Total - 3,476,034
Child Welfare Workers Bearing the Burden
The average caseload for a child welfare worker in 2019 was between 24 and 31 children. (Caseloads range from 10 to 100 children per worker per ACF, APHSA, CWLA). (The Child Welfare League of America recommends caseloads of between 12 and 15 children per worker.)
The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute surveyed 1,263 workers in a Midwestern state to determine factors that influence workload perceptions related to manageability and overtime work to better understand the relationship between caseload and workload.
This study found:
- 28% of caseworkers perceive they have an unmanageable workload.
- 86% of caseworkers had recently worked overtime.
- 61% of ongoing caseworkers had caseloads exceeding the recommended level (The recommended standard is 12 investigative cases and 17 ongoing cases).
It's Not Just the Children - It's the Environment
Social workers recognize that to truly help protect children by preventing child maltreatment, families must also be helped by identifying and addressing the individual, familial, and community-wide challenges they encounter. Child maltreatment stems from the following societal ailments:
- Alcohol abuse
- Domestic Violence
- Drug Abuse
- Financial Problems
- Inadequate Housing
- Public Assistance (Families caught in a constant cycle of insecurity)
- Any Caregiver Disability
It's clear that the job of the child welfare social worker is far more complex than removing children from abusive homes or finding them suitable foster families. Child welfare social workers work tirelessly to alleviate the social causes of child maltreatment, thereby vastly complicating their already highly complex task.
Our mission at GVT is closely aligned with child welfare worker's needs. Although everyone complains about the vast amount of "paperwork" involved in every child welfare case, this "paperwork" enables a vast social services bureaucracy to protect millions of children while keeping their information confidential yet available across multiple service agencies. FAMCare's information and workflow platform is designed to help the child welfare worker handle the ever-increasing need for information analysis and communication. We are dedicated to helping our clients handle the unbelievable burden society has asked them to bear.
To learn more about "who we are" and "what we do" click HERE.