The Cost of Social Worker Turnover

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The Cost of Social Worker Turnover


There is a national epidemic of social worker turnover

Nationally, 30 – 45% of child welfare staff leave within 2 years

2 years

Factors impacting those who stay more than 2 years: a.

However, only 28 percent of child welfare staff hold either a BSW or MSW, and fewer than 15 percent of child welfare agencies require caseworkers to hold these degrees.

25% 20%

10% 5%

28% 15%



Work Supports – personal safety, addressing secondary trauma, realistic caseloads, professional development and competent supervision

We Can Deliver!


Organizational Climate – supportive v. reactive approach of leadership, celebrating successes, workforce resiliency and direct practitioner input

We Can Deliver!


Organizations Pay 30%-70% of Salary When Social Workers Leave

Education – those with a Social Work degree (BSW/MSW) stay longer.



Cost of Turnover:

Personal Sense of Mission in Child Welfare

Costs Range from $6,600-$24,800


Direct costs Direct costs such as – advertising, time spent interviewing, background and reference checks, training

Indirect costs such as low morale and increased workloads when staff leave, liability of the organization due to inexperience & impact on outcomes of safety, permanence and well-being

Why It Matters Turnover Impacts Outcomes Negatively


Federal Child & Family Reviews cited “workforce deficiencies” including turnover as a reason states did not meet at least one or more of their measures.


The National Center on Crime and Delinquency (2006) determined that there was a direct correlation between high turnover rates and higher rates of maltreatment reoccurrence after three, six and twelve months. Child welfare agencies with a turnover rate exceeding 15 percent had a six-month recurrence rate (an important “yardstick” in the federal Child and Family Service Reviews) that was 125 percent higher than those with turnover rates below 8.5 percent

Child welfare agencies with a turnover rate exceeding 15% had a higher six-month recurrence rate

Flower, McDonald and Sumski (2005) discovered that an increase in the number of direct practitioners decreases the chances of timely permanence for children. For example, within a cohort of children who had only one social worker, 74.5% achieved timely permanence, with the percentage drastically dropping to 17.5% if the child had two social workers. In fact, there is negative impact on both length of stay in foster care and achieving reunification if multiple practitioners are involved with the family (Ryan, Garnier, Zyphur & Zhai, 2006).




children with one direct practitioner, achieved permanency 74.5% of the time

70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20%


10% 0 Workers









5.20% 3



Flower, C., McDonald, J., & Sumski, M. (2005). Review of Turnover in Milwaukee County Private Agency Child. Welfare Ongoing Case Management Staff. Retrieved from: SFAM08/files/turnoverstudy.pdf

References: Barak, M.E., Nissly, J.A & Levin, A. (2001). Antecedents to retention and turnover among child welfare, social work, and other human service employees: What can we learn from past research? A review and metanalysis. Social Service Review, 75(4), 625-662. Flower, C., McDonald, J. & Sumski, M. (2005). Review of turnover in milwaukee county private agency child welfare ongoing case management staff. Retrieved December 13, 2015, from Ryan, J.P., Garnier, P., Zyphur, M. & Zhai, F. (2005). Investigating the effects of caseworker characteristics in child welfare. Children and Youth Services Review, 28(9), 993-1006. Children’s Defense Fund & Children’s Rights, Inc (2006). Components of an effective child welfare workforce to improve outcomes for children and families: What does research tell us? Retrieved from Children’s Rights, Inc. website on February 9, 2016 CPS Human Resource Services (2006). The Turnover Tool Kit: A Guide to Understanding and Reducing Employee Turnover. Retrieved from CPS Human Resource Services on February 9, 2016 United States General Accounting Office. (2003). Child welfare: HHS could play a greater role in helping child welfare agencies recruit and retain staff (GAO-03-357). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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