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Improving the Child Welfare Workforce: Lessons Learned from Class Action Litigation

Prepared in collaboration with Children's Rights and funded by Cornerstones for Kids.

This report provides the findings from a review of efforts to strengthen the child welfare workforce through class action litigation and summarizes the lessons learned. 

These lessons provide a useful framework for current and future efforts to improve the child welfare workforce, both in and outside of the context of litigation.

Full Report:

Improving the Child Welfare Workforce: Lessons Learned from Class Action Litigation

2.7 MB, 116 pages

Executive Summary

592 KB, 25 pages



  1. Increase outreach to and the involvement of key stakeholders in the design and monitoring of the workforce reform process.
  2. Reduce acrimony between various stakeholders (e.g., litigants, management and staff, public and private agencies, etc.) by providing regular opportunities for interaction and communication about the workforce reform efforts.
  3. Draw significantly upon policy and practice expertise in the design and monitoring of negotiated court orders and reform plans to improve the workforce.
  4. Construct workforce reform efforts broadly, e.g., include all functions (investigations, in-home/preventive, foster care, and adoption) of the child welfare system.
  5. Strike a balance between court orders that may be overly prescriptive and court orders that do not include enough interim or process measures to ensure a clear roadmap—and the necessary supports for the workforce—to improve outcomes for children and families.
  6. Focus on staff retention efforts by establishing manageable caseloads and workloads and providing quality training and supervision, adequate salaries, benefits and incentives and access to professional development opportunities.  Ensure that recruitment efforts focus on hiring the right staff for the right positions.
  7. Improve the range of staff incentives, including appropriate salaries, benefits, stipends for advanced degrees or specialized skills and opportunities for advancement.
  8. Develop and measure supervisory competencies, not only supervisory ratios or supervision hours.  Create performance benchmarks that inform caseworkers' promotion to supervisory positions and the evaluation of supervisors' job performance.
  9. In addition to increasing the number of training hours offered to staff, address the content and quality of training opportunities to ensure that they are based on best practices and help staff develop needed skills.
  10. Establish caseload standards that reflect a real analysis of workload (i.e., the amount of time needed to perform the various functions of the job) and increase clerical supports to help workers do their jobs.
  11. Improve working conditions and address safety issues both in and outside of the agency by providing clean and upgraded office space, desks, telephones and cell phones for workers, and instituting safety procedures such as stationing law enforcement in agency buildings and allowing for teaming on cases.
  12. Implement organizational culture change at all levels, by ensuring high quality agency leadership, valuing worker input, communicating the agency mission internally and externally and retraining the entire workforce (not just new staff) in the philosophy and practice model.
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