Caseworkers for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) have specialized skills that qualify them to work with a vulnerable population. They are vital in the services they provide to Utah families. To perform their role successfully, caseworkers must have bachelor’s degrees and spend years learning on the job.
Unfortunately, DCFS is experiencing high turnover and has difficulty recruiting qualified caseworkers. Since 2014, turnover has increased 52%.
Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, brought this to the attention of the Legislature’s Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee during its interim committee meeting on Oct. 15. She emphasized the importance of continuity of care when working with distressed families but said caseworkers aren’t paid enough to stay.
DCFS Director Diane Moore said her department has enough full-time caseworker positions, but DCFS can’t fill the positions or retain the employees once hired. With frequent caseworker turnover, efficiency is lost, and costs rise. On average, cases take six to nine months longer to complete. Last year the Salt Lake Valley had 12 caseworker positions open and had to leave half of these positions vacant due to a shortage of qualified applicants.
The recruitment and retention challenges can be attributed to inadequate compensation. Caseworkers employed by the state make $32,000 annually, compared to Idaho, where caseworkers make $51,000 annually. In Idaho, the turnover rate is just 16%. The turnover rate has not been this low in Utah since 2010.
UPEA is dedicated to continue working with Judkins on this issue. Updates to members will follow throughout the 2020 legislative session.