November 15, 2017

Kent School battles turnover in child welfare workforce

By Joseph Lyell —

U of L’s Kent School of Social Work has been given a large part in a federally funded research grant that aims to cut down on staff turnover in child welfare agencies.

With the grant, U of L, along with four other universities and three national child welfare consultants, helped found the Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development (QIC-WD).

QIC-WD says employee recruitment and retention is difficult in the child welfare workforce. Staffing issues are difficult to tackle because there has been little research conducted on how to attract and retain child welfare workers.

 The rate of staff turnover in child welfare agencies is approximately 21 percent – six times the national average, according to the center’s website. QIC-WD aims to reduce this number by examining current trends and researching effective strategies to improve workforce outcomes.

The climate of child welfare agencies is part of the problem, according to QIC-WD. They plan to use expertise from both academic and industry perspectives to reform the culture of these workforces.

“The center will work in partnership with the eight jurisdictions to execute rigorous evaluations on a variety of workforce interventions so that the field will have more evidence-based options for improving difficult workforce challenges,” U of L Professor Anita Barbee said.

Barbee is the project leader for Louisville’s team. Her research at the university has focused on child welfare reform, and interpersonal relationship formation and maintenance. In 2007 she was awarded the NDSTA Lifetime Achievement award for her contributions in the field of child welfare training and evaluation.

The four universities taking part in this project alongside Louisville include University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is leading the program, University of Colorado-Denver, University of Tennessee-Knoxville and University of California-Los Angeles. The consulting groups C.F. Parry Associates, CLH Strategies & Solutions, and Great Eastern Consulting are also working with the center.

Also working with the grant from the Kent School are faculty members Becky Antle and Martin Hall, research managers Katy Henry and Jenny Taylor and doctoral student Lisa Purdy.

More information about the Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development can be found on their website.

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