(April 11) – An effort to get a handle on the alarmingly high rate of turnover among child welfare caseworkers was launched successfully today in the House Public Health & Human Services Committee.

The national average length of employment for child welfare workers is about three years. This is of concern to the workers, who report that that they aren’t given the time or resources to handle the traumatic stress of regular exposure to young victims of violence and abuse. It is of concern to social services agencies, which spend an average of $54,000 for training and other costs involved with hiring replacement workers. And not least, it is of concern to the young child welfare clients, who stay in foster care an average of eight months longer when they have multiple caseworkers due to turnover.

HB17-1283, sponsored by Reps. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, and Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, creates a task force to bring together members of statewide working groups, child welfare caseworkers and other professionals to determine what resources are needed, and where. The task force’s database would be made available to county child welfare agencies to develop “resiliency” programs to retain experienced caseworkers.

In gut-wrenching testimony, representatives from across the social work community as well as the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police supported the bill.

“Our caseworkers see the worst of it,” said Rep. Singer, who spent seven years working in county human services departments. “But through all of these stories that you’ve received today, there is a common thread that people want to continue to do this work. They see value in it. They see value in the lives that they’re saving. And we can’t let the negative overshadow the positive.”

HB17-1283 advanced to the House floor on a vote of 10-3.

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