Abstract: Evaluating Implementation of Job Redesign: Strategies and Preliminary Findings from Louisiana (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Evaluating Implementation of Job Redesign: Strategies and Preliminary Findings from Louisiana

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Cindy Parry, PhD, CEO, CF Parry Associates, Helena, MT
Background and Purpose: Louisiana is testing job redesign in three parishes; contrasting workforce and practice outcomes to those of a comparison group. Needs assessment showed that high caseloads and administrative task responsibilities were barriers to caseworkers’ ability to support families, engage clients, determine root causes of maltreatment, and implement timely services. Surveys prior to implementation revealed that caseworkers perceived their jobs as highly complex; requiring a wide range of tasks, a variety of specialized skills, and a high degree of information processing. Job analysis and process mapping determined which tasks needed to be retained by child welfare workers and which could be assigned to a newly created professional position, Child Welfare Team Specialist (CWTS). Units were restructured to form Prevention teams, combining Child Protective Services (CPS) and Family Services (FS) programs; and Permanency teams with pairs of Foster Care workers sharing a caseload; one focused on the children and one focused on the parents. Both units are supported by a CWTS who works with the child welfare worker, assuming duties categorized as administrative. The first eight redesigned teams rolled out in June 2019. Subsequent groups rolled out in November and February 2020. The redesign is intended to tailor the array of tasks performed to each worker's role, making workloads more manageable, reducing stress levels and improving retention. Improved retention is expected to enhance the quality of services to children and families, leading to better child and family outcomes.

Methods. Several methods have been used to collect feedback on early implementation of the intervention, including surveys of caseworker perceptions of job characteristics and readiness to implement, case reviews, and time studies to assess model fidelity and track changes in the percentages of time caseworkers spend on clinical versus administrative duties. Focus groups with caseworkers, CWTSs, supervisors and managers assessed satisfaction with the intervention, training, and on-going support. Focus group feedback and archival data from community of practice calls have provided anecdotal evidence of practice changes.

Results: Discussion will focus on what has been learned about caseworker workload immediately prior to and during the early implementation phase of this project. Time studies have shown decreases in the time caseworkers in both prevention and permanency units spend on administrative tasks and increases in time spent on face-to-face clinical contacts with children and families. Focus group data have showed that while some caseworkers are reluctant to “let go” and assign tasks to the CWTS, others see the role as helping them to be more available to families and timely in completing job tasks. Practice changes reported included families receiving service referrals more quickly, fewer removals, and fewer backlogged cases. Managers noted decreased overtime and increased morale.

Conclusions and Implications: Although in the early stages, this research suggests that job redesign may benefit caseworkers through improved work-life balance and increased opportunities for clinical work with families; and have implications for agencies concerned with efficient use of limited staff resources. COVID-19 implications on project implementation will also be discussed.