In a nine-page document titled “Staff Retention Impacts Child Welfare Services,” the grand jury stated that Child Welfare Services “consistently underperforms and does not meet its expected outcomes,” primarily due to employee burnout and stress, leading to a high rate of staff turnover.
Keeping the agency fully staffed, at nearly 120 employees, “has been challenging” and the remaining 103 employees “become overburdened with a shared workload,” but cross-training, full staffing and additional management training may help ease some of the problems, observed the grand jury.
The report found that the workforce turnover rate negatively affects the agency’s performance and outcomes for the county’s children.
Grand jurors recommended that the agency fill allocated jobs and hire more support staff and provide cross-training to employees “to maintain all services at all times.”
The report also found that the agency has difficulty retaining staff due to “the complex, demanding, and emotionally challenging responsibilities, exacerbated by limited support from supervisors.”
The report recommended more time and replacement staff for managers and supervisors to “receive area-specific management training to improve staff emotional and procedural support.”
A response by the county’s Department of Health and Social Services, which manages the program, is pending.
Grand jurors reported that staff turnover, as recounted by agency staff, was due to “stressful work environment, emotional burnout, lack of experience and training of management and staff, the low level of trust within the division, unequal workload, vacant positions and limited feedback and support from supervisors.”
Agency employees also told grand jurors that, at times, the number of emergency hotline calls exceeds the availability of social workers to answer the calls.
In-person referrals are discouraged because of staff shortages, according to the report, and referrals involve allegations of suspected child abuse, neglect and/or exploitation.
Agency employees told the grand jury that most referrals are for “general neglect of children, substance abuse and domestic violence.”
A growing concern in the county is human trafficking, and “calls are received about children being ‘groomed’ for trafficking and exploitation,” according to the report.