With more than 80 social workers positions currently open at the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF), the state is ramping up recruitment efforts.
DCF currently has 78 protection specialist positions to fill, and seven supervisor positions. DCF employs about 440 social workers, while the state’s private contractors, KVC and Saint Francis Community Services employ another 1,000 social workers between the two agencies.
The state has come under scrutiny after 2015 death of Adrian Jones by his father and stepmother despite repeated reports to social services and child welfare agencies in Missouri and Kansas. A 2016 audit of the state’s foster care system highlighting several areas of concern has lead to the resignation of the secretary of DCF, who was replaced in December by Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel.
Since them Meier-Hummel and Governor Jeff Colyer (R) have worked together to implement changes to the state’s child welfare system and proposed legislation to provide more transparency when tragedy does occur.
Part of fixing the system’s problem, includes ensuring an adequate number of social workers are in place to monitor children. Adding more caseworkers ultimately helps to reduce the number of children on a worker’s caseload. Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change that the number of caseloads varies by worker and region or county in the state.
“Workers open and close cases each day,” Meir-Hummel said. “DCF worker caseloads are not counted by children, but rather by intake. The most recent report indicates the statewide average is for DCF workers to receive 16.6 new intakes per month.”
In an effort to help recruit more social workers, starting salaries were increased in 2016 to $40,000 for social workers to $40,000, and $44,000 for supervisors annually. That pay increase was an addition of $1.1 million to the DCF budget.
Other recruitment efforts have included hosting career fairs; adding more part-time and temporary social work positions; increasing the number of social work practicum students per region; and advertising open positions across a number of social media platforms.
The governor helped to highlight the need for more qualified workers by designating March as Social Work Month.
“Social workers perform an essential duty for Kansas families, and I am happy to recognize their dedication in a field that is so challenging,” said Governor Colyer in a press release earlier this month. “Recruiting and retaining social workers is difficult, so I fully support the efforts of DCF to incentivize social workers to consider state service.”
CORRECTION: This story was updated to show starting salaries increased for social workers to $40,000, and supervisors to $44,000, not from $40,000 to $44,000.