A couple years ago, our united voice led to an unprecedented strike for child safety, resulting in L.A. County hiring 2,765 additional social workers to alleviate our caseload and help us prioritize children’s needs. However, hiring those social workers wasn’t enough.
Keeping those new social workers proved to be another challenge we needed to step up and confront. Though the average attrition rate in the social services field is two percent, L.A. County’s attrition rate has – at some offices – reached up to 40 percent among new hires.
It’s an unacceptable loss. The revolving door of social workers significantly deflates the morale of our remaining DCFS workforce and it significantly impacts the quality of services that we can provide to our clients.
Last year, our union’s survey of L.A. County employees revealed that most social workers simply didn’t feel they had any meaningful support on the job. In response, SEIU 721 and DCFS established the Caseload Accountability Panel labor-management partnership – and this group created a pilot program specifically to provide better coaching and mentoring to DCFS social workers.
Every participating social worker was assigned a coach-and-mentor. They served as reliable confidantes and they helped new employees navigate the rigors of the social work profession. So far, 300 social workers – like Felicia Morgan and Donnetta Baker (pictured) – have completed the program and become part of a “mentor-mentee duo.”
Now, attrition rates among L.A. County social workers have dropped to six percent among new hires. It’s fantastic news – and it’s all thanks to the strength of our union.
The DCFS social services workforce within SEIU 721 was instrumental in successfully changing leadership at L.A. County so that our ideas for improving working conditions would be welcomed, considered, implemented – and, ideally, institutionalized. That’s exactly what’s taking place now.