The University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work has a major role in a five-year, federally funded research grant to strengthen the country’s child welfare agency workforce – and ultimately to improve the lives of the children it serves.
The UofL portion is $2.1 million for the evaluation part of the grant, which is expected to total $15 million for the consortium of five universities and three national child welfare consultants. The group has launched the Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development through the grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration’s Children’s Bureau.
Battling a high turnover rate, child welfare agencies report difficulty in retaining qualified employees in jobs that can be high-stress, low-paying and complex. Workers tasked with protecting vulnerable children and with strengthening families face emotionally draining situations and challenges that can lead to secondary trauma and burnout.
During this morning’s press conference announcing the work, UofL interim president Greg Postel said finding ways to prevent burnout in this field is a real opportunity.
Eight agencies chosen as study sites represent a mix of urban and rural communities and a variety of types of organizations, including centralized state systems, county-administered systems, a large urban county and a Native American tribe.
“The center will work in partnership with the eight jurisdictions to execute rigorous evaluations on a variety of workforce interventions so that the field will have more evidence-based options for improving difficult workforce challenges,” said Anita Barbee, UofL distinguished university scholar in social work, who will be the project’s lead evaluator. “The lessons we learn through this project will be applicable to our own state down the line.”
Other partners in the center, based at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, are University of Colorado-Denver, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, UCLA, C.F. Parry Associates, CLH Strategies and Solutions and Great Eastern Consulting.
Other Kent School researchers working on the grant are faculty members Becky Antle and Martin Hall, research managers Katy Henry and Jenny Taylor and doctoral student Lisa Purdy.
Check out highlights from this morning’s press conference below: