Casework Turnover and Contracting Reform

| December 4, 2016

Social Worker Crisis Impacts Contracting

What does social worker retention have to do with contracting reform? A lot when making data-driven decisions on social outcomes over the longer term.  A well-known study of public sector child welfare social workers, recently cited by Governing Magazine, found that caseworker turnover has a dramatic effect on outcomes. Over a one-year period, children with only one caseworker achieved permanent placements in homes 74.5 percent of the time. When two caseworkers are involved due to turnover, the success rate plummets to 17.5 percent; with three caseworkers, the chance of a child finding a permanent home drops to just 5 percent. Further, high turnover of caseworkers leads to increased training costs: The Texas Senate Finance Committee determined it takes $54,000 to train each new worker. Two of the main factors effecting turnover are low salaries and high caseload size — both of which are the result of underfunding social services.

So what does this have to do with government-nonprofit contracting reform? This phenomenon is not limited to public sector caseworkers. Average salaries for nonprofit social workers are 36 percent lower than those in the public sector and the need to do more with less is continually increasing. While the gap between the actual costs to perform services and what governments will reimburse keeps getting larger, there is growing emphasis on measuring outcomes, which also costs money. Contracts and grants that do not reimburse at least actual costs to perform services with enough properly trained and adequately compensated staff ultimately costs everyone — nonprofits, government, taxpayers, and most importantly, those individuals who need services. Rather than spending $54,000 to train each new inexperienced social worker, funds could be spent much more effectively by paying what is needed at the front-end, instead of paying for the constant churning at the back-end caused by lack of adequate funding.

Tags: , , , ,

Category: General

Comments are closed.