Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) is one of eight universities collaborating with the federal government on a nationwide project to evaluate, strengthen and enhance the nation’s child welfare workforce.
The five-year initiative, funded by the U.S. Children’s Bureau, is called the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI). It joins Fordham with the State University of New York at Albany, Michigan State University, the Universities of Denver, Iowa, Michigan North Carolina and Maine, and the National Indian Child Welfare Association.
The goal of the $16.5 million project, according to Virginia Strand, D.S.W., professor of social work, is to develop the skills and education of professional child welfare workers who serve the nation’s most vulnerable children and families.
Currently, turnover among child protective staff workers averages 22 percent, and is as high as 40 percent in some places, noted Strand.
“There is a workforce crisis in child welfare,” said Strand, Fordham’s liaison to the NCWWI. “To improve the delivery of child services, there has to be attention to recruiting, training and then retaining a quality workforce. It’s not enough to just have a warm body in place; you have to have the right people with the right qualifications.”
SUNY Albany will act as the central hub for the institute and its partners. Fordham is receiving more than $200,000 to develop the project’s educational component.
The NCWWI, Strand said, will consist of three basic components: a leadership institute designed for mid-managers; a separate leadership academy for training supervisors; and $5 million in “training scholarships” for students earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. Any school that applies for the training scholarships must be in partnership with a child welfare agency, Strand said.
Strand’s role is to help develop virtual teaching and learning communities for faculty and students at schools of social work around the country that train child welfare professionals. She also will help create a network between 14 schools that are recipients of traineeships so that they can share information and build collaborations.
“Organizational factors are as critical as individual worker qualifications in retention,” said Strand, who helped develop the funding application. “This initiative will focus on all three areas: developing and sustaining managers, increasing the effectiveness of supervisors, and increasing the . . . staff who have BSWs or MSWs in social work.”