Positive outcomes for vulnerable children, youth and families are achieved when a competent, well-trained workforce that is able and motivated to achieve the agency’s goals and objectives is deployed. It is the workforce that translates broad organizational strategies into everyday actions. Positive outcomes for children, youth and families are most likely to occur when there are enough staff prepared and supported to implement services. The workforce is where the “rubber meets the road.”


Within this guidance, the reference to workforce includes all staff. When there are issues that apply only to specific staff such as front-line, direct service staff, a distinction will be made. The primary audiences for this guidance are child welfare agency teams charged by agency leadership with developing and maintaining a high performing workforce with the capacity to execute the agency’s strategy to achieve positive outcomes for the children, youth and families it serves. In presenting this chapter, PPCWG recognizes that each agency has a unique structure, legal environment, and demographic profile to which the concepts must be adapted and applied. Nonetheless, PPCWG believes that this chapter will serve as guidance that all agencies can use to attract and retain a highly competent workforce.

This Guidance Provides Answers to These and Other Questions:

  • What central issues are addressed in a comprehensive and effective workforce strategy that is well-integrated with a child welfare agency’s practice model, structure and modes of operation?
  • What are the components and practical considerations of an effective workforce plan that can be applied to any child welfare agency setting?
  • What elements of agency culture, climate and capacity warrant attention in recruiting and retaining an effective and stable child welfare workforce?
  • What are the attributes, knowledge, skills and abilities of an effective child welfare workforce?
  • How do the attributes, knowledge, skills and abilities of front-line workers, supervisors and managers relate to job descriptions, the practice model and the critical performance management practices that promote building and retaining an evidence-informed, outcome-driven, highly competent child welfare workforce?

Why Is This Critical Area Important to the Field of Public Child Welfare?

  • A well-trained, highly skilled, well-resourced and appropriately deployed workforce is foundational to a child welfare agency’s ability to achieve best outcomes for the vulnerable children, youth and families it serves.
  • The workforce is the agency’s public face to the children, youth and families it serves. Additionally, the actions of the workforce are what stakeholders use most to judge an agency’s competence and effectiveness.
  • The workforce is both the most important and most expensive resource that child welfare agencies must invest in to achieve their goals and objectives.
  • Studies have established a causal relationship between a capable child welfare agency workforce and positive case outcomes1. This includes the influence of workforce capacity on placement stability, maltreatment recurrence, reunification, and foster care and permanency outcomes.
  • When supported by the agency leadership, the workforce will demonstrate a high level of investment in evidence-informed practice, be willing to innovate where appropriate, and take measured risks to provide services that are anchored in the practice model and will improve outcomes.

How Will Outcomes Be Achieved For and With Children, Youth and Families?

  • When a workforce possesses adequate attributes, skills, knowledge, abilities and resources, the agency will be better positioned to engage clients and improve client outcomes through the services they provide.
  • When a clear understanding of what goes into building a strong and vibrant workforce is present, management will be able to use resources more effectively and efficiently.
  • When a workforce has credibility in the community, it will be able to engage the resources of other agencies to provide service that the agency is unable to provide.
  • When a workforce is at peak performance, it will provide legitimacy for funding requests for staffing and other resources.

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