Innovative Approach Reduces Staff Turnover to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes
Child welfare agencies are in a staff retention crisis that is impacting children and busting agency budgets.
In Virginia, targeted use of modern technology is improving front-line worker job satisfaction, which can stem the tide of attrition and improve child and family outcomes.
Turnover at Crisis Levels
Nationwide, child welfare worker turnover is an alarming 21 percent, well above the national average of 4 percent for professional staff. In real terms, a child welfare worker only averages two years on the job!
Filling a vacancy is time consuming and costly. The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) reports it can take on average 7 to 13 weeks to fill an opening, with the cost to recruit and replace a single worker between $10,000 and $50,000.
Negative Impact on Children
Persistently high staff turnover has a negative impact on relationships between children, families and agencies, which makes it even more difficult to achieve positive outcomes.
Turnover simply adds to high caseloads of existing workers, increases the mental toll on those workers, and requires families and children to try to build trust with an ever–changing caseworker.
Archaic Technology Drives Staff Dissatisfaction
Virginia took this problem head-on. They polled caseworkers and poured over exit interviews to identify cause of worker dissatisfaction.
A common complaint was technology. Caseworkers throughout the Commonwealth said they were tired of dealing with an archaic legacy system that was hard to access, hard to navigate, and hard to use. All it did was add hours and stress to their already long and challenging days.
They wanted modern technology that supported them in their work and gave them the flexibility to complete job tasks more quickly as they worked with families in the community. Doing so would take away bureaucratic work and free up time for why they entered the social work profession to begin with.
Mobile, Modern Approach
In less than a year, Virginia implemented mCase Child Welfare Mobile, integrated it with the Virginia legacy system, and rolled out the solution on iPads to nearly 3000 staff.
With mCase, front line workers can now:
- Complete assessments with the family and immediately view results.
- Capture audio recordings of interviews.
- Have the system read out case notes as they travel to their next appointment.
- Capture pictures of school events, award ceremonies, and family moments so the story of the child can be protected.
- Complete forms online, capture e-signatures, and share the documentation with families via email or in hard copy.
- Complete narratives when it is convenient for the caseworker.
- Access case information and perform work even with no cell or internet connectivity.
Dramatic Workforce Impact
Within six months of Virginia implementing mCase Child Welfare Mobile, Virginia found that compared to non-users, mCase Child Welfare Mobile users were significantly:
- More grateful towards the department,
- Less concerned about the iPads being a barrier to engagement, and
- More positive about iPads increasing their efficiency, reducing documentation time, freeing time for other tasks, and providing support for their work.
Almost 40 percent of staff using the mCase Child Welfare Mobile solution indicated time savings related to contact documentation.
Further, job satisfaction was significantly correlated with gratitude for the iPads.
These improvements in workforce outcomes will lead to enhanced child and family child safety, family cohesion and permanency outcomes throughout Virginia.