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STEM Model May Offer Hope for PA Child Welfare Workforce Crisis

by Danielle Smith, Keystone State News Connection

The child welfare system in Pennsylvania faces a staffing crisis affecting children and families throughout the system.

The Child Welfare Resource Center said about 30 counties report caseworker vacancy rates of 30% or higher.

Terry Clark, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, at a state Senate hearing on child welfare, challenged the Departments of Education and Human Services to work together to develop a STEM-focused model for human services. It could offer young people opportunities for training, apprenticeships, and careers in child welfare, juvenile justice, and behavioral health.

“We spend a lot of time focusing on colleges and universities,” Clark noted. “But we believe we might want to back this up a little bit and start looking at middle schools and high schools. Try to reinvigorate, get younger students motivated and trying to come into this field.”

Clark pointed out some agencies have asked supervisors and even people from other departments to take on casework responsibilities. A recent Philadelphia study found Community Umbrella Agencies had an average 45% turnover rate, with vacancies ranging from 21-60 positions.

Clark observed private providers face workforce challenges similar to the county child welfare agencies. He emphasized counties are beginning to explore more contractual relationships with private providers for needed work.

“Counties are starting to put out RFPs, calls for private providers to help supplement their workforce,” Clark stressed. “That means they’re asking private providers to take on roles and functions that, in the past, were primarily done by counties themselves.”

Clark argued competitive wages are seen as crucial to attracting and retaining child welfare workers, and county funding often falls short. He added student loan forgiveness and fellowship programs may be promising ways to bring new people into the field, but lawmakers would have to agree.

“There have been House bills and different Senate bills that have been introduced, or at least in draft form over the years,” Clark acknowledged. “We hope that there’s continued discussion about those because if we can get some movement on those, we think those will really help.”

He told legislators the turnover trends will not change significantly without increased investment in workers.

The post STEM Model May Offer Hope for PA Child Welfare Workforce Crisis appeared first on BCTV.

Source: bctv

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