Kansas is currently experiencing a shortage of qualified child welfare social workers. As a result, caseloads have been high, leading to burnout and turnover. This has a negative impact on the quality of services provided to children and families.
For many months, nonprofit KVC Kansas has been advocating for an expansion of who is eligible to serve children and families involved in foster care or related systems. We covered the topic in-depth in this article: A Fast, Proven Way to Strengthen the Child Welfare Workforce. We’re thankful to report that the change we proposed and advocated for has been approved by our partner the Kansas Department for Children and Families, creating new career possibilities for thousands of caring professionals, contributing to a more fully-staffed child welfare workforce, and elevating child and family service quality.
Expanding Who Can Serve Children and Families in Crisis
Historically, only individuals with four types of licensable degrees (social work, family therapy, counseling and psychology) were allowed to work in case management and other fields in child welfare. Three of the four are only licensable at a master’s degree level, meaning that the majority of people with bachelor’s degrees in these fields were ineligible to work in child welfare. However, in most other states, people with degrees related to social work are legally permitted and needed to work with children and families in order to meet the demand for services. As a result, KVC Kansas and the Kansas Department of Children and Families decided to join the majority of states that allow professionals with equivalent, related college education and experience to do case coordination.
This initiative is expected to increase the quality of care to children and families by reducing job vacancies, ensuring more worker/family service continuity, and channeling the expertise of people with related degrees. Individuals with related degrees will receive enhanced training as well as ongoing supervision from licensed staff, ensuring that they do high-quality work. Hiring people with equivalent education and experience mirrors the medical field. For example, the role of a nurse practitioner has grown in recent years, which has allowed for people to have expedited short-term care instead of potentially waiting longer to see a healthcare provider with an MD.
Here’s a snapshot of how this process works:
After a public job posting in which no qualified licensed professionals apply, professionals who have related degrees, equivalent college education and six months’ experience in child welfare are allowed to apply. The professionals have bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in related fields such as psychology, sociology, counseling, and child development and many have already worked in the Kansas foster care system for years. Enhanced training and supervision are provided to ensure these professionals demonstrate the same quality in job performance.
Fewer Job Vacancies Means Better Child Welfare Services
Our goal was to reduce vacancies for licensed social work positions by 75% in 90 days and we are on track to achieve that goal in a fraction of the time. We anticipate that this modification will help reduce caseloads and turnover, as well as allow supervisors to focus on supporting their teams instead of carrying large caseloads. This change will positively impact families by providing greater consistency and helping them achieve long-term stability in a more timely manner.
“By first promoting trained and experienced child welfare professionals who were already employed with KVC and who have degrees related to social work, we have been able to significantly reduce caseloads. Within just one month, we are nearing our goal of filling 75% of vacancies well ahead of our original 90 day timeline.”
– Stacy Yowell, KVC Talent Acquisition Recruiter
If you would like to be a part of this positive change to child welfare, we would love to have you on our team.