This study sought to assess the effects of caseload level reduction in a child welfare agency that provides in-home supervision and out-of-home care in the United States. Focus groups were conducted to collect the perceptions of case managers employed by the agency, which reduced caseloads from the 40s to the 20s. Transcript passages revealed that the perceptions were overwhelmingly positive, with the case managers describing positive impacts for job satisfaction, retention, foster child well-being, permanency, and safety. The case managers also described the mechanisms by which caseload level reduction exerted its effects. Specifically, the reduction allowed for additional/extended home visits to assess for safety and additional time spent with three groups (foster children, parents, and the case manager’s own family). Additional time with foster children resulted in both job satisfaction and child wellbeing, while additional time with parents resulted in parent success and child permanency, which further strengthened job satisfaction and employee retention. Lastly, the additional time the case managers were able to spend with their own families reinforced their decision to remain in the position.

Key Take Away Points

· This study provides child welfare professionals with a provisional theoretical model for understanding the possible consequences of caseload level reduction.

· Caseload level reduction allowed case managers to invest additional time in their cases and their own families.

· Case managers believed that the additional time spent on these activities furthered the goals of foster child well-being, child safety, child permanency, job satisfaction, and retention.

Author Biography

Julie A. Steen serves as Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Central Florida. Through her research, she has furthered the field's understanding of child welfare policies and organizations. Her work has been published in numerous journals and disseminated at both national and international conferences. Prior to her academic career, she served the child welfare field in a number of roles. She provided crisis counseling to abuse survivors, offenders and non-offending parents. She also served at the community level as a public awareness trainer in support of Child Abuse Prevention Month, a lobbyist representing child welfare priorities in the Florida Legislature, and a coordinator of TEAM Florida, a statewide inter-agency collaborative entity that held primary responsibility for the production of Florida’s Five Year Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Plan. She received her PhD from Florida State University, her MSW from the University of Georgia, and her BA from the University of North Florida.


This research was supported by a grant from the Florida Institute for Child Welfare.