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The Child Welfare Worker Load: How Working Conditions Restrict Workers' Capacity to Serve Children and Families

While pursuing my Master’s in Social Work, I was placed in the foster care reunification unit at my local Department of Social Services as an intern.  This was to be my first experience with the child welfare system, where I met the amazing children, young people, and families that inspired me to continue in this line of work. The caseworker is an important source of support for the children involved in the child welfare system.  But these workers are often overworked and underpaid.  Some of my coworkers had caseloads of 15-20 children, while research tells us caseloads of under 12 are more manageable, and 8 is ideal. Many of my caseworkers had second jobs waitressing, bartending, tutoring, and working retail in order to make ends meet.  A feeling of being overwhelmed and exhausted was common in the office.  I will never forget my first day, when I walked through the door and saw yellow caution tape decorating all of the cubicles – I was told it was an expression of stress and frustration.  In the 9 months I was an intern, I saw a supervisor and caseworker change positions, leaving our unit with just two full time caseworkers, one acting supervisor, and an intern for months. There was simply too much to do, not enough people to do it, and a lack of support for those trying to do the best with what they had.....Read more, click here. By, Norah Stephanos, VFA Public Policy Intern.(August 2015)