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Vol. 4, No. 3
June 1999

Turnover in Child Welfare

Turnover hurts families and children. By leaving their jobs, social workers can compound feelings of insignificance and rejection in kids already hurting from abuse and neglect.

When foster and adoptive parents quit, the effects on foster children—most of whom have already lost one family—can be devastating.

Turnover hurts agencies, too. It lowers morale, reduces efficiency, and eats up time and money as agencies seek, hire, and train new employees. And turnover prevents us from meeting our goal of one case worker or case work team for each child and family.

In this edition Practice Notes explores what researchers, practitioners, and administrators have to say about turnover in child welfare, and we present some ideas for fixing this system-wide problem. Unless we confront this issue head on, we will be unable to ensure that every foster child has a safe, loving, permanent family within one year.


Social Worker Retention
Ideas for Retaining Child Welfare Workers in North Carolina
Retention and Recruitment of Foster and Adoptive Families
Foster Parent Associations: A Valuable Recruitment Resource
Assessing Your Agency’s Foster Parent Recruitment Needs
Review of Recent Federal Laws and How They Affect the Way We Recruit Foster and Adoptive Parents
ASFA and MEPA: Implications for Recruiting Parents
A Profile of Child Welfare Social Workers Who Stay
Boost Your Job Satisfaction
Click here to read or print the entire issue as a pdf file.

 For additional resources about turnover in child welfare, consult the following:

  • Factors Influencing the Retention of Specially Educated Public Child Welfare Workers. Public child welfare services reach families with complex needs and children in imminent danger. Title IV-E funded educational and financial incentives have increased the number of graduate social workers seeking employment in public child welfare. But faced with the reality of such a complicated and difficult job, questions remain about how long these graduates will work in public child welfare positions. This presentation offers research-based supervisory and programmatic suggestions that can improve the retention of professional social workers in public child welfare agencies.

  • Advocasey: The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Policy Magazine. The Spring 2004 issue explores the workforce crisis plaguing children and family services. AECF President Doug Nelson highlights the need for renewed focus on frontline workers serving needy kids and families, and we look up-close at this challenge in Greenville, South Carolina. Other articles document Michigan's "just-in-time" hiring process and Cincinnati's pay-for-performance contract with area human services workers. A final article profiles three more promising personnel reforms.

  • Children's Bureau Express ( has explored the issues of staff retention and burnout in the following articles:

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