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Newsroom Kansas DCF named to National Child Welfare Workforce Institute Collaborative

Kansas DCF named to National Child Welfare Workforce Institute Collaborative
The 16-month series will focus on the recruitment and retention of the child welfare workforce

Topeka, Kan. – The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) recently joined the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute’s Breakthrough Series Collaborative. The 16-month program launched in April and will focus on the recruitment and retention of the child welfare workforce and building cultures that value justice, equity, diversity and belonging. 

The Breakthrough Series Collaborative brings together multidisciplinary teams to engage in a dynamic learning process that cultivates a healthy, equitable, sustainable workforce. Other states named to the collaborative include Illinois, New Mexico, Washington state and Westchester County (NY). 

“We aren’t simply looking at the issues from the top down,” shared Laura Howard, Secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families. “Our teams, which are comprised of community partners, educational institutions, and DCF staff and leaders will learn up as we experiment with small and large approaches to recruiting and retaining child welfare workers.”

Kansas is represented with two teams focusing on the Northwest and Northeast regions of the state, which includes 41 Kansas counties and the cities of Colby, Hays, Salina, Manhattan, Hiawatha and Topeka. The teams include new and veteran DCF staff in leadership, child protection and human resource roles, and partners such as Saint Francis Ministries and Fort Hays State University.

“Staff at all levels want to be part of the solution to improve workforce recruitment and retention,” said Deanne Dinkel, DCF’s director of safety and thriving families and performance improvement. “This Breakthrough Series will provide this opportunity for staff to engage, learn, and be a part of the solution.”

The Collaborative requires the teams to meet monthly to discuss the test strategies they have and are planning to implement, while collecting data to track progress and share with other states and counties involved in the program.

The teams are focused on five domains in the Collaborative’s Change Framework. They are Mattering at Work, Opportunity for Growth, Community & Connection, Protection from Harm, and Work-Life Harmony. The Kansas teams are first looking at Protection from Harm and believes that progress made in this domain will impact the Work-Life Harmony domain.

“One approach we are taking in Protection from Harm is expanding our emergency contacts list,” shared Caroline Hastings, Northeast Kansas regional director and Northeast team manager. “We will begin to offer family members/emergency contacts of our child protection employees with supervisor’s work contact information.

“So, if a worker is late, their family member has someone to contact if they cannot reach their loved one,” she continued.

Other areas of exploration within Protection from Harm involves engagement with Fort Hays State University and Saint Francis Ministries in a more holistic approach to preparing students and staff for the work.

“We have begun educating our staff on secondary traumatic stress and tactics to deal with this,” explained Pamela Beach, Northwest Kansas regional director and Northwest team manager. “Although our agency has improved immensely in areas of communication, transparency, and being culturally responsive, we continue search for effective ways to support staff and buffer burnout as well as provide immediate in-house supports for trauma and therapeutic processes.” 

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