Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
October 3, 2017

Russ Reno, Communications and Legislative Services, (office) 402-471-8287 or (cell) 402-450-7318 or 
Nebraska DHHS Selected to Test Workforce Strategies

Lincoln – Staff turnover in child welfare agencies is typically up to six times the national average turnover rate across all industries. The Children and Family Services Division in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) currently has an annual turnover rate for Children and Family Services Specialists (CFSS) of about 32 percent, which includes both those who left the agency and those who found another job in the agency. High turnover is just one example of costly workforce issues that can negatively impact vulnerable children. DHHS was selected as one of eight sites to partner with the Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development (QIC-WD) to strengthen their workforce.

Sites were chosen through a competitive, national process that began in January 2017. Applicants had to demonstrate their workforce needs and willingness to participate in a research project to be selected. Dr. Michelle Graef, research associate professor in industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Center on Children, Families and the Law, and Director of the QIC-WD, noted that, “This was a very competitive process. The selected sites demonstrated an understanding of their workforce challenges, a willingness to participate in a study, and a desire to partner with our team to test a promising strategy with the potential to significantly improve their agency.” The other selected child welfare systems include:

  • Division of Milwaukee (WI) Child Protective Services
  • Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
  • Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services
  • Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and yet-to-be selected counties
  • Oklahoma Department of Human Services
  • Virginia Department of Social Services and yet-to-be selected counties
  • Washington Department of Social and Health Services, Children’s Administration

DHHS is pleased to be part of this project. “As part of our Business Plan and process improvement work, we are seeking solutions to recruiting and retaining our team,” said DHHS CEO Courtney Phillips. “The flexibility of the grant allows DHHS to continue its current review and design of a comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy.”

“This program will help us develop strategies that are evidence-based and sustainable that will be evaluated for effectiveness in meeting the needs of our team,” said Children and Family Services Director Matt Wallen. “We look forward to the opportunity through this partnership to improve outcomes for children and families in Nebraska as a result of their findings.

“Our team cares passionately about the children and families they serve,” Wallen said. “We appreciate their commitment and hard work. By assessing our needs and developing interventions, this study also will support their efforts in the field to help people.”

Over the next four years, DHHS will work with the QIC-WD to address and study potential solutions to their specific workforce issues. The QIC-WD was established in 2016 and is funded through a five-year cooperative agreement with the Children’s Bureau. The QIC-WD is led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln and includes experts in child welfare, workforce, implementation, evaluation and dissemination from partner organizations. The QIC-WD is committed to using the best available research, from a variety of fields, to identify strategies to strengthen the workforce of DHHS.

“Ultimately, a stronger workforce with less turnover and more supportive organizational environments, should improve the outcomes of the vulnerable families and children served by the child welfare system,” according to Dr. Graef.

“Work in this area is consistent with our mission of helping people live better lives,” Wallen said. “Our ability to recruit, develop and retain for the CFSS position will strengthen our team and help those who work directly with children and families to find solutions for their challenges. We look forward to working with QIC-WD in the coming years as we work toward these goals.”


Funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, Grant #HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CT-1178. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the funder, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.