Caseworker turnover affecting Nebraska youth in foster care

December 7, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — An annual report on foster care shows more than half the juveniles in out-of-home care in Nebraska had three or more caseworker changes.

An unstable workforce makes it hard to ensure children are safe and getting what they need, said Julie Rogers, Nebraska’s inspector general of child welfare. It can also affect caseloads and morale, she said.

“Caseworkers have a very hard job the way it is in working with struggling families and making sure children are safe,” she said.

The Foster Care Review Office issued the report last Friday. Caseworker changes can create gaps in information and documentation, the agency said. New workers may also lack specific knowledge of cases and available resources in the community. Caseworkers need to invest time to create relationships and build trust in order to be effective.

The independent state agency recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services fund more caseworkers and supervisors, ensure caseload standards compliance and develop support, training and mentoring for caseworkers.

The Health and Human Services Department announced in October that it will work with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to address the turnover rate. The organizations will work together on a four-year program to recruit and retain caseworkers.

“We also are looking at several other approaches to make child welfare work more family-friendly for case managers, such as flexible hours, providing support for weekend work with part-time positions, and tiered career path opportunities,” said department spokesman Russ Reno.

The report says more than 7,900 youth were in out-of-home care for at least a day from July 2016 to June 2017. That’s about a 5 percent increase from the previous year.

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