Improving Child Welfare in Illinois
Today Children’s Home & Aid staff, including Melissa Ludington, Vice President of Child Welfare Services, and Amber Hoeft, Foster Care Case Manager, joined Andrea Durbin, CEO of Illinois Collaboration on Youth to testify before the Illinois House Appropriation Human Services Committee. At the hearing, the group testified about shortcomings in the child welfare system in Illinois and spoke about the need for a rate hike for private child welfare agencies.
Each day, we care for more than 1,100 children and youth in foster care, which is more than 15 percent of all children under the guardianship of the Department of Children & Family Services. We employ over 150 child welfare case managers like Amber, who provide frontline services each day to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve.
Private child welfare agencies like Children’s Home & Aid have not seen the rates paid to them increased in nearly a decade. At Children’s Home & Aid, we recognize the importance of keeping staff turnover low and have worked hard to retain our staff despite the lack of adequate funding from the state. Despite our best efforts though, our turnover rate for foster care workers was 23 percent last year. Across the state, turnover rates can be as high as 42 percent in certain types of care settings. Illinois has to do better.
Every time an employee leaves, their cases have to be turned over to another case manager and that has an impact on that case, the family and the worker. Staff turnover can directly impact the success of children in the child welfare system. According to one study, a child with one caseworker through a year has a 74 percent chance of permanency1. However, that rate drops to 17 percent when two caseworkers are involved and 5 percent with three, the study found.
The child welfare workforce crisis is effecting Illinois’ children and families and the capacity of agencies to serve them. The first step in addressing this crisis is for the Illinois General Assembly to increase the rates paid to child welfare agencies so they can improve salaries, workloads and training for staff.