Florida is in the midst of a preventable disaster that is hurting our at-risk children.
Case managers, who are trained to help families and children at risk navigate what can be a difficult and confusing child protection system, are leaving the profession at an alarming rate, leaving children with fewer children. targeted advocates for their needs in times of crisis. The ever-changing faces of those tasked with helping them only make what can be a terrifying experience for families and children.
Case managers help children and families in complex and stressful environments. Their profession requires appropriate and effective training and a specialized set of intellectual and behavioral skills which improve with professional experience. People who choose case management as their profession do so because of an intense desire and ability to help those who need it most in their community.
Children and families at risk benefit better from a stable case management workforce. Unfortunately, the very high attrition rates of case managers negatively affect the ability to properly and effectively provide needed services.
For over 20 years, case manager attrition has been a growing problem across the country. In Florida, attrition typically occurs within the first three years of employment – and the average tenure is two years. Some of Florida’s leading child welfare agencies statewide are currently reporting turnover rates above 50%.
Why do case managers leave a job they love? This is because better paying and less stressful jobs can be found elsewhere. The small workforce creates a high workload and long working hours in what is already a heavy profession. Many avoid burnout by seeking a better work-life balance elsewhere, especially during the ‘big resignation’ that takes place after COVID.
Salaries for case managers in Florida are not competitive with those in other states and comparable occupations. Florida struggles to attract candidates to the profession because it offers a significantly lower average starting salary statewide. The average starting salary for a case manager in seven comparable states is $ 48,958. Meanwhile, the average salary for a case manager in Florida is $ 39,646, which is far lower than the state’s average salaries for similar occupations like police officers, teachers, and social workers.
The Florida Coalition for Children is urging the state legislature to increase its annual investment in case managers and other critical child protection positions by $ 40 million, which would be distributed statewide.
Here’s what can happen if Florida increases its investment in case managers:
• Recruitment and hiring practices will become more selective, strategic and efficient.
• Salary will become comparable to that of other areas related to community service.
• Social workers will have more incentives to stay in the profession.
• Case workloads will become more manageable, leading to better outcomes for the children, families and communities served.
Kurt Kelly is the CEO of the Florida Coalition for Children.