A Review of Retention Strategies for California’s Public Child Welfare Agencies

Turnover in public child welfare agencies is a nationwide issue related to poor outcomes for children in foster care. The purpose of this proposed graduate project is to evaluate the retention strategies of California county child welfare agencies. Retaining skilled child welfare workers is challenging for public child welfare agencies as the turnover can cause a ripple effect in the agency. Turnover impacts staff workloads and morale, and if organizational culture does not support staff, this leads to more turnover. Although some counties document strategies aimed at retention, California does not require county child welfare agencies to include retention strategies in their System Improvement Plans (SIPs), indicating an important missing factor in their system for service delivery. The proposed evaluation of county child welfare agency retention strategies and the impact of the strategies on the agencies' goals for retention could encourage more counties to develop retention strategies to retain the skilled workforce necessary for appropriate and impactful service delivery. This proposed evaluation will use a mixed methods design, incorporating archival data review from 12 selected county child welfare agencies' SIPs, the State of California's Program Improvement Plan (PIP), human resource records documenting the turnover rates, with responses from a survey and focus groups of county child welfare workers', supervisors;, and managers' intention to remain employed at their agencies and their thoughts and beliefs regarding the agency's retention strategies. The projected results will provide data to determine if those counties that have documented retention strategies for their child welfare workers will have more child welfare workers reporting their intention to remain employed at the agency. The results of this proposed graduate project are expected to have implications for public child welfare agencies statewide and nationwide by encouraging inclusion of retention strategies in agency SIPs to improve outcomes for children in foster care. Keywords: California child welfare agency, retention strategies, employee turnover.