New Child Welfare Recruits Face Large Case Loads

By: Rachel Thomas Email
By: Rachel Thomas Email
The state is in the midst of hiring 500 people for the Department of Human Services. Those who make the cut will work in Michigan

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Preschool students at The Goddard School, including from left, Kaitlyn Evans, Jacob Coombs and Miles Griffin listen as teacher Kayla Thompson goes over a lesson on Tuesday morning.

A steady flood of applicants showed up at MSU to interview for one of the 500 spots to be filled in Michigan's child welfare program. As a part of a budget-saving early-retirement program,1300 people left last year. Now new recruits are imperative to keep the system improving as part of a court order.

"That is why we have partnered with 5 colleges and universities for this pilot program to hire at least 500 people quickly, by this Spring," said Gisgie Davila Gendreau, the director of marketing for the Department of Human Services.

In 2006, the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) was sued for alleged failures in the child welfare system. Two years ago, they settled in court signing a consent decree that mandates improvements such as lowering case loads and moving more children into permanent homes.

In December, the court looked at the progress DHS has made in the child welfare program. Though it has made significant improvements, there is still more to be done.

"Depending where they are working, they could be working with 20 to 30 case loads," said Gendreau.

That is still above the national average of 15 cases per employee. Though some admit case loads may be intimidating, applicants are excited about the opportunity.

"My passion is for community outreach and empowering people to get the services they need," said MSU Senior sociology major Lauren Hayes.

An expert in child welfare who also worked several years in Child Protective Services says these new hires will be in for a challenge.

Sot-gary anderson, director of school of social work at msu- 1:21
"As soon as they walk in with all of their enthusiasm, they are going to be met with a very difficult situation. They are going to need a lot of training to get through these first 6 months," said Gary Anderson, the director of MSU's School of Social Work.

Dr. Anderson says when social workers are overwhelmed it's children who lose the most.


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