Voices from Accenture Public Service

Child welfare has long been an important and personal issue. My family struggled financially and depended regularly on public assistance. Having that experience, I developed an internal need and desire to break the cycle for both myself and others. When I went to college, I started out as a social work major. I wanted to work with kids who experienced similar stresses that I faced growing up. However, at 20 years old, I was not yet emotionally mature enough to handle the tremendous responsibility and never earned that degree.

The people who commit to working in child welfare do so because they’re passionate about making a difference. But it’s a very emotional and taxing line of work, especially for new caseworkers. Consequently, high turnover is endemic in child welfare systems. According to a national report, child welfare worker turnover is 30-40 percent, and the average tenure is less than two years.[i]

Instability in child welfare has enormous implications for the well-being of the children and families being served. One study showed that a child with a single caseworker over a year has more than a 74 percent chance of permanency, but as the number of caseworkers increases, that rate drops significantly to 17 percent with two and 5 percent with three.[ii] As I think about all of this and take on the challenge from my first blog of wondering how we might improve outcomes in child welfare I begin to think about what role data has and can have in better enabling our caseworkers who have a direct line to better outcomes. Lower staff turnover does improve outcomes, but the best outcomes occur in organizations with low turnover and high proficiency.[iii]

Most caseworkers have access to a ton of case data. However, often that data is not available in a format that is at your fingertips easy to read. The challenge to tackle is how do we use the data we already have to provide our caseworkers’ critical insights to help inform for better decision making.  Better data insights can point to trends in behaviors and situations, helping to improve the decision-making process. Integrated data systems and holistic at glance views providing a 360-degree view of a person, family or case can provide real-time alerts that tell caseworkers when a child misses school or if a mother fails a drug test on the day it occurs. Right now, it can take months to get this information, when it may be too late or more difficult to intervene. Combined with new digital technology, caseworkers can gain access to the right information at the right time to get (and stay) ahead of any problems.

I believe that data insights can give our caseworkers the tools, resources, and support they need to drive accelerated outcomes and help reduce caseworker turnover. What is your perspective on data insights and leveraging this approach to better enable and empower caseworkers to drive improved outcomes?

Read our POV on Child Welfare at www.accenture.com/outcomes

[i] General Accounting Office. 2003. Child Welfare: HHS Could Play a Greater Role in Helping Child Welfare Agencies Recruit and Retain Staff. GAO-03-357. Available at https://www.gao.gov/assets/240/237373.pdf.

[ii] Flower, C., McDonald, J., & Sumski, M. (2005). Review of Turnover in Milwaukee County Private Agency Child. Welfare Ongoing Case Management Staff. Available at http://www.uh.edu/socialwork/_docs/cwep/national-iv-e/turnoverstudy.pdf.

[iii] Williams, Nathaniel J. and Charles Glisson. 2013. “Reducing turnover is not enough: The need for proficient organizational cultures to support positive youth outcomes in child welfare.” Child Youth Serv Rev. 2013 November 1; 35(11). Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3834965/pdf/nihms524988.pdf.

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