Ohio Children's Services Agencies Saw Significant Worker Turnover in Pandemic

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click to enlarge Worker turnover at children's services agencies is linked to increased time kids spend in foster care. - (Adobe Stock)
(Adobe Stock)
Worker turnover at children's services agencies is linked to increased time kids spend in foster care.

While workforce shortages are plaguing nearly every field these days, the stakes are particularly high for Ohio's county children's services agencies.

The pandemic exacerbated turnover, as about 38% of Ohio child-protective services workers left their positions in 2020.

Matthew Tracy, ongoing social worker for Licking County Job and Family Services, explained much like first responders, caseworkers serve communities around the clock and are called to support families and keep children safe, often during traumatic moments.

"We're meeting them at their worst place, at their worst spot," Tracy pointed out. "It's very difficult to process at times."

Stephanie McDaniel, family services supervisor for Athens County Children's Services and a native of southern Ohio, enjoys giving back to her community, and while turnover increases stress, she explained her co-workers and the families she serves are what keep her motivated.

"My team's very tight, and having somebody to talk with is just really key," McDaniel emphasized. "Trying to remember why we are doing this. We want children to grow up in healthy and happy households. "

Research shows turnover is costly to taxpayers and can lead to children lingering in foster care.

Tracy argued if more workers can be hired and individual caseloads reduced, agencies could better serve the needs of children.

"Because we can actually spend more time with these families, you're going to have a lot better outcome of kids going home or getting home sooner, but also safely," Tracy contended.

McDaniel said caseworkers, just like parents, want what is best for the child.

"When we have a family that doesn't see us as scary or threatening, when they work alongside us, we have more success," McDaniel observed. "We want to build a network and a team around a family in order to help them be successful. "

She added their goal is to find permanency for children, whether through reunification with a parent or placement with a relative or other caregiver.
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