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Child Welfare: HHS Could Play a Greater Role in Helping Child Welfare Agencies Recruit and Retain Staff

GAO-03-357 Published: Mar 31, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 2003.
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A stable and highly skilled child welfare workforce is necessary to effectively provide child welfare services that meet federal goals. This report identifies (1) the challenges child welfare agencies face in recruiting and retaining child welfare workers and supervisors, (2) how recruitment and retention challenges have affected the safety and permanency outcomes of children in foster care, and (3) workforce practices that public and private child welfare agencies have implemented to successfully confront recruitment and retention challenges.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services Because of the reported impact staffing shortages and high caseloads have on the attainment of federal outcome measures, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) should take actions that may help child welfare agencies address the recruitment and retention challenges they face. Such efforts may include (1) using its annual discretionary grant program to promote targeted research on the effectiveness of perceived promising practices and/or (2) issuing guidance or providing technical assistance to encourage states to use their program improvement plans to address the caseload, training, and staffing issues cited in the Child and Family Services Review process.
Closed – Implemented
In October 2005, ACF hosted the "Child Welfare Workforce Development and Workplace Enhancement Institute" and made presentations and other conference materials available on its website, via the National Clearinghouse for Child Abuse and Neglect Information. Sponsored by ACF's Children's Bureau, the conference was designed to highlight strategies for recruiting and retaining a stable and highly skilled child welfare workforce. Plenary sessions and workshops featured presenters and panelists from the federal Government, public and private agencies, universities, and other child welfare organizations. Topics included promising approaches to recruiting and retaining workers, workforce findings from the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) and the role of leaders in improving workforce practices.

Full Report

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Child adoptionChildrenEducationFoster childrenLabor forcePersonnel managementPersonnel recruitingChild welfareHuman resources managementFoster care