The U.S. Children’s Bureau has historically recognized the significance of the child welfare workforce in improving the lives of children, youth and families, as well as the important role of social work within that workforce. Although the public may perceive the child welfare workforce as being predominantly comprised of social workers; in fact, fewer than half of child welfare workers have a social work degree. This discrepancy has been attributed to professional shortages, workplace conditions, caseload size and complexity, and low salaries. However, studies initiated by the National Association of Social Workers have found that the profession continues to successfully attract new graduates to child welfare practice and that social workers in child welfare enjoy high levels of job satisfaction. These studies also identified factors that contribute to the retention and attrition of social workers in child welfare.

Key Take Away Points

  • Social workers remain committed to child welfare practice.
  • Social workers in child welfare are more prepared for working with vulnerable families.
  • The child welfare workforce must maintain a professional base.

Author Biography

Tracy Whitaker, DSW, ACSW, is the Director of the Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice at the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Dr. Whitaker directed the 2004 national benchmark study of licensed social workers and was the lead author of five reports emanating from that study. She also led the first compensation and benefits study of the social work profession in 2009 and has conducted multiple studies of the NASW membership. Dr. Whitaker is the lead author of Workforce Trends Affecting the Profession, 2009 and The Results are In: What Social Workers Say about Social Work, both published by the NASW Press.