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Salary Survey Highlights Compensation Trends, Pandemic Impact on Child-Welfare Workforce

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A new report found many agencies made programming changes - With 45% reducing capacity for their programming and one in four (24%) closing one or more programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Pressmaster/AdobeStock)
A new report found many agencies made programming changes – With 45% reducing capacity for their programming and one in four (24%) closing one or more programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Pressmaster/AdobeStock)

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 Danielle Smith, Producer


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Tuesday, August 29, 2023   

new report analyzes salary data and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on the workforce of child-welfare, juvenile-justice and children’s mental and behavioral health organizations across Pennsylvania. The report provides an overview of the industry’s compensation structure from entry-level positions through executive positions.

Abigail Wilson, director of child welfare, juvenile-justice and education services for the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services explained her group identifies workforce development as one of its top public-policy priorities because of significant recruitment and retention challenges.

“So 88% of those agencies experienced increased staff turnover since March of 2020, when it began,” she said. “And then some people left just because they didn’t want to be around or have an increase in getting COVID. But then there’s also just, in general, been lack of funding for fair pay and positions. “

The salary study includes a review of almost 50 positions across 42 agencies and includes variables based on employment status, region, agency size, budget, time with the agency, and education level as a benchmarking tool for agencies operating within children’s services.

Wilson added families across Pennsylvania are grappling with the impacts of a staffing crisis that has left child services struggling to meet the needs of their communities. 

“And so what the public is seeing is this really long waitlist to get children into services,” she continued. “Maybe inability to access services at all. So again, even from the public perspective, supporting increases in wages for staff, working with children and youth.”

A recent survey of more than 280 child welfare workers in Philadelphia found that compensation was the primary reason workers considered leaving this field, with more than 80% identifying salary as a top reason. Wilson pointed out it is importance for policymakers to know which positions in the workforce need salary increases.

“Much of the vacancies are direct clinical behavioral-health staff, and also that the main reason for turnover is compensation is the main reason that workers leave,” she said. “So, when they’re considering funding, different programs, budgets, anything to support the workforce, salary and compensation should really be part of that conversation.”

Wilson added the report notes nearly all agencies have made more aggressive salary and benefits offers and made changes in the ways they recruit new staff. Some of the agencies are offering longevity, referral and sign-on bonuses along with tuition assistance, she added. 

Disclosure: Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children’s Issues, Education, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


Philadelphia’s child welfare workforce The Philadelphia Child Welfare Workforce Task Force 11/2022