Governor Beshear Stresses Importance of and Need for More Social Workers

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Governor Andy Beshear and Cabinet for Health and Family Services Acting Secretary Eric Friedlander were in Louisville Friday meeting with social work staff discussing the needs of state child welfare professionals. The pair were at the L and N Building — which houses the state’s largest social services office — to discuss child welfare work in Kentucky.

In last month’s budget address, Beshear said he would increase funding to the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) so 350 social workers and support staff in the Child Protection Branch.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving home,” Gov. Beshear said. “When children are at risk, our social workers respond immediately with support to protect children, give them stability and ultimately try to preserve the family. We must make a serious investment to stop the rampant child abuse and neglect in our state. We must act now to hire more social workers, who can help us protect more children.”

The additional hires will help ease caseloads per social worker, which is a top factor in hiring new and retaining current social workers.

Amanda Crowell is a social worker in Jefferson County she says she and her coworkers believe additional staff could help immensely.

“We love doing the work of helping families – we feel we are making a difference,” she said. “It becomes a matter of serving families well but not as fully as we know we could if we had more time with smaller caseloads. More social work staff would ease our caseloads and give us more time with each family to meet their needs.”

According to Beshear’s office, the average caseload for DCBS social workers is 30. In areas with larger populations that number is higher, in some instances reaching more than 890. The national recommended average if 15-18 cases per social worker.

The last time the state added social workers was November 2017 and 125 positions were added. Right now the combined current, average salary for all social worker positions is $3,309.17 per month or $39,710.06 per year.

Friedlander says he and DCBS leaders are focused on staff resiliency and secondary trauma — emotional stress that happens when someone hears about the trauma experiences of another person. 

“Our social workers all too often experience secondary trauma by the nature of their work, and the agency is dedicated to ensuring they are given the tools and support needed to better respond to their needs,” he said. “Our desire is become a trauma-informed agency to better support workforce and the Kentuckians we are here to serve.”