It’s not a top headline or the latest public outrage. It’s a quiet crisis, but one that affects not only the quality of life for kids who enter the foster care system, but also the economic outlook for the entire state.
Florida’s child welfare system is understaffed and overwhelmed. Imagine if your local police or fire department didn’t have enough officers to keep you safe. Well, our child welfare workers are the unseen heroes who are the emergency responders for families in crisis. These are the people who leave their own families in the middle of the night to take care of others. Often, they take their job well beyond their job description – interrupting their personal time to tend to a child in need of rescue.
Like police officers and firefighters, they often sit at the intersection of life and death so how can we allow our frontline child welfare workers to suffer because of chronic understaffing?
These dedicated professionals don’t do it to get rich. They do it because they believe that every child should have the opportunity to rise to their own potential. But there’s a personal limit, and when facing uncompromising obstacles even the most compassionate among us will eventually suffer from burnout and traumatic stress.
The average annual turnover rate for child welfare workers is a staggering 30 to 40%. The recommended child-to-caseworker ratio is between 12:1 and 15:1, but in Florida, it now stands at 22:1. Every time a case manager leaves, 22 kids get spread among the remaining workers.
It’s unsustainable, it’s unconscionable and it makes no financial sense.
We know that every time a case manager leaves, that person’s 22 children spend an average of 4.5 months in foster care, and that costs taxpayers approximately $850,000.
We also know that children in foster care who remain with a single case manager – within a 21-month period – are reunified with their families or placed in permanent homes 75% of the time. Compare that to a child with two case managers, and the reunification number falls to 18%.
That’s why the Children’s Home Society of Florida is asking the Florida Legislature to invest an additional $25 million to support frontline case management services. For the safety and outcomes of the children we serve and the social and economic future of the state we live in, we need to retain and grow a highly skilled workforce, fairly compensated and properly supported.
We need your help. Please let our legislators hear your voice. We’ve made it easy. Click on the CHS Advocacy Action Center link and let them know, stability for the child welfare frontline means more stability for our most vulnerable children.
Originally posted by: The Ledger