Legislators Make Appropriations Requests for Severely Underfunded DHS Employee Salaries

During the Social Services Appropriations Committee on February 5, Rep. Judkins (R-61) and Rep. Kohler (R-54) made appropriations request for state employee salaries for DCFS caseworkers and USDC caretakers, respectively.

Rep. Kohler made a brief but impactful testimony in favor of a salary increase for caseworkers at Utah State Developmental Center. He shared his own familial experience about how some family members utilize this service and the need for caretakers to be compensated appropriately to give their best to the disabled clients they care for. He pressed the committee to commit to raising caretaker salaries to greatly alleviate the 80% turnover the agency faces as well as benefit the communities they serve.

A presentation by DCFS Division Director Diane Moore set the stage by explaining the facts and statistics surrounding DCFS caseworkers and the challenges they face. Moore explained Idaho DCFS caseworkers, after one year on the job, make $51,985 and only experience only a 16% turnover rate. Compared to Utah where caseworkers on average, across all frontline titles and regardless of tenure, are only making a $35,880 salary with a 32% turnover rate. 62.2% of employees leaving the agency cite the lack of salary increases as a contributing factor to their departure.

Rep. Judkins stated bluntly, “this should be embarrassing to all Utah lawmakers.” She explained to the committee that it costs over $3.3 million to train new hires due to high turnover. “It is simply put, a waste of money. Not only that, but the real losers of this awful situation are the populations of children and families DCFS serves.” Studies have shown that the relationship between a family and their caseworkers is the greatest predictor of a family’s success, and caseworker changes poorly affect the time a child spends in the DCFS system.

UPEA employee representative, Christy Berk, testified on behalf of both requests during the public comment section of the meeting. She stated, “The employees at the USDC and DCFS serve some of the most vulnerable populations in Utah. To have the best of the best in those positions, we need to ensure they are properly compensated and appreciated. These funding requests will greatly alleviate turnover and increase retention. And in turn, will benefit the populations they serve.” UPEA will continue to track whether these requests are granted and update members as needed.