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SSW Professors Evaluate, Strengthen Child Welfare Workforce with $2.5M U.S. Health and Human Services Grant

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

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School of Social Welfare Associate Professor Nancy Claiborne and Assistant Research Professor Catherine Lawrence received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to strengthen the child welfare workforce.

Researchers Nancy Claiborne and Catherine Lawrence will work with private agencies who serve children and families in the public child welfare system (Photo Mark Schmidt).

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 6, 2008) -- School of Social Welfare Associate Professor Nancy Claiborne and Assistant Research Professor Catherine Lawrence received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau to lead an organizational intervention, designed to evaluate and strengthen the professional child welfare workforce. The five-year project, in partnership with the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), will work with private agencies in New York State who serve children and families in the public child welfare system.

The project, The New York State Child Welfare Workforce Initiative (CWWI), fills a significant gap in New York's continuum of care for children in the child welfare system by focusing on the workforce needs in voluntary agencies under contract with the public child welfare system. It is designed to create sustainable system changes that strengthen and support the professional child welfare workforce so they may better meet the needs of children and families and improve safety, permanency and well-being outcomes.

"This may be one of the first initiatives like this in the country which systematically works to build the child welfare workforce for the non profit sector," said School of Social Welfare Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson. "Since many child welfare families rely on services from the non profit sector, such capacity building is essential. I expect that the work underway may become a national model."

Professor Nancy Claiborne will lead the project, The New York State Child Welfare Workforce Initiative.

Professor Nancy Claiborne will lead the project, The New York State Child Welfare Workforce Initiative (Photo Mark Schmidt).

The child welfare field is experiencing a severe workforce crisis. In 2006, states listed worker recruitment and retention as the second most pressing problem after services to children and families. This crisis translates directly into negative consequences for children and families; recruiting shortfalls and high turnover have serious implications because they leave remaining staff with higher workloads. This in turn leads to delayed proceedings and investigations; less face-to-face contact with children and families; limited opportunities for relationship-building, and other factors that directly impact systems' capacity to achieve the safety and stability of children.

This project will build a statewide collaboration of government networks, agency leaders and community, family and youth representatives. The collaboration will develop a comprehensive workforce assessment, plan and evaluation, as well as implement and evaluate a child welfare scholarship program.

"It will be an honor to work with COFCCA to build support and stability for the individuals and agencies that care for some of our most vulnerable children," said Lawrence.

"Together we will build on existing strengths while addressing challenges that face these agencies and their communities in providing care to vulnerable children," said Claiborne.

The mission of the School of Social Welfare is to further social and economic justice and to serve people who are vulnerable, marginalized or oppressed, a mission implemented through education, knowledge development, and service that promotes leadership for evidence-based social work with a global perspective. The School was ranked 12th among social work schools nationwide in the most recent U.S. News and World Report. In addition, School of Social Welfare faculty consistently rank in the top five of all schools of social work nationally for their research and scholarship.

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Carol Whittaker
UAlbany Faculty

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