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Opinion: As Child Welfare Workforce Shrinks, News Frame Must Shift From Blame to Change

In this opinion piece, the author discusses a child welfare workforce that’s shrinking and in crisis. The author also lifts up a critical study from PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group that underscores the importance of shifting the frame of news media coverage about the child welfare system.

  • Hartford Courant
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“America is facing a child welfare workforce crisis. Some child welfare agencies are reporting vacancies as high as 35-45 percent of their workforce, particularly among investigators of child abuse and neglect. Turnover rates have soared, with studies showing that almost half of child welfare staff leave their jobs within two years. Schools of social work are also reporting drops in enrollment, which means the pipeline for future child welfare workers is also shrinking.

Child welfare professionals are deeply about family preservation – safeguarding families in the midst of crisis, connecting them to supports, and addressing immediate needs to alleviate stress and help families thrive so children can safely remain at home.

Significant stressors that can impact the child welfare workforce include high caseloads, work-related traumatic stress, taking care of your own family, and emotional exhaustion, but an underlying stressor that is rarely addressed is the impact of intense media scrutiny.

A study from Berkeley Media Studies Group found that a majority of reporters cover the child welfare system solely through a crime lens. According to the study: “News about the child welfare system was driven by tragic stories of individual cases of harm and death, painting a picture of a system that is failing, inadequate, or at, best, overwhelmed.  When solutions to issues in the child welfare system were discussed, the focus was on punitive, after-the-fact measures in response to high-profile incidents.”

To read the full opinion piece, click on the link below. Registration or a subscription might be required to access this full article.

Originally published by Hartford Courant

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