Human Services Policy Advisors Institute

The Human Services Policy Advisors Institute is a series of monthly calls that bring together governors’ policy advisors and state leaders from social services and children and family-serving agencies to share innovations and best practices for serving the complex needs of children and families. This network serves as a monthly check-in for updates, content, peer-to-peer exchanges, and networking; this call series is the Children and Families Program’s primary space for convening policy advisors to discuss multidisciplinary policy considerations.

The Human Services Policy Advisors Institute is a series of monthly calls that bring together governors’ policy advisors and state leaders from social services and children and family-serving agencies to share innovations and best practices for serving the complex needs of children and families. This network serves as a monthly check-in for updates, content, peer-to-peer exchanges, and networking; this call series is the Children and Families Program’s primary space for convening policy advisors to discuss multidisciplinary policy considerations.


Governors’ policy advisors with human services-related portfolios. Most commonly, this role is housed within the Governor’s office; however, personnel from state agencies such as human services, child welfare, and early childhood education may also join.


  • Monthly call series
  • State-specific technical assistance available on an ad hoc basis
  • Consultation on NGA published materials

HSPAI Sessions

January 19, 2022 – State Strategies For Addressing The Mental Health Workforce Shortage


*Sheila Smith, Co-Director of National Center for Children in Poverty: minutes 9:30 – 27:00

*Sheri Dawson, Director of the Division of Behavioral Health for Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services: minutes 27:00 – 49:00


In the wake of the pandemic, Governors across the country are grappling with an ongoing youth mental health crisis exacerbated by the Pandemic. States are searching for solutions to provide quality mental health services for complex child welfare cases, address new student stressors due to the pandemic and school violence, and reach children in rural communities. Compounding these issues, the country faces a nationwide mental health provider workforce shortage that has created a barrier for high-risk populations to access services. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent and Psychiatry, nearly 1 in 5 children face a mental health issue but only about 20% receive care.

Key Takeaways

Preventive services and trauma-informed care delivered through specialized providers can mitigate the long-term impacts of complex conditions:

  • Children involved in child welfare are more vulnerable to mental and behavioral health issues that can lead to long-term struggles with education, relationships, and overall well-being.
  • Child mental health providers need specialized knowledge and training, including an understanding of early development, parent/child relationship stressors, and an awareness of treatments and diagnoses.  

States can utilize flexible ARPA funds to advance mental health policies and resources and equip providers with the specialized skills and training they need to provide quality care to children. 

  • Georgia is using ARPA ESSER funds to increase the number of school mental health providers and establish school-based health clinics
  • Massachusetts is using ARPA funds to invest over $100 million in strengthening and stabling Home Community Based Services provider workforce in response to COVID-19
  • New York is investing $21 million in ARPA funds to recruit and retain, cover education expenses, and provide career development and training to mental health providers.

Investments in career pipelines and apprenticeship programs can address workforce shortage and capacity challenges through early recruitment efforts. Pipeline programs like Nebraska’s Ambassador Program and F.A.R.M C.A.M.P have allowed expedited recruitment to combat the dire shortage in the state’s most rural areas.

Spotlight on States


  • Increased existing clinician capacity by offering subsidized training for evidenced-based IECMH treatments.
  • Offered a 10% higher Medicaid reimbursement rate for trained clinicians.
  • Recruited and supported providers from underserved areas of the state with mentorship programs and subsidized Infant early childhood mental health (IECMH) training.


  • Increased existing clinician capacity by offering subsidized training on evidenced-based IECMH treatments through the state’s Right from the Start program. Offered IECMH training to home visitors, early childhood education providers, clinicians, and nurses.


  • Used IECMH consultants to support direct service professionals (home visitors, caseworkers) through the state Best Starts for Kids Workforce Development Program.
  • Recruited diverse leaders for a yearlong IECMH community of learning cohort to increase clinical skills and training.

Nebraska Spotlight Programs

  • Frontier Area Rural Mental Health Camp and Ambassador Program (slide 10): High school exposure/training provides an opportunity for interested high school students to learn about behavioral health professions and support a pipeline from high school to the workforce.
  • Virtual Mentor Network (slide 6): Connects interested high school students to behavioral health professionals to ask questions, discuss behavioral health topics, and connect with professionals who are in psychiatry or psychology.
  • Community Crisis Consortium (slide 11): A collaboration of mental health providers to share the burden of “being on-call” by expanding technology, training, and designating responsibilities.
  • Primary Care Training (slide 13 & 15): Expanded the capacity of local primary care physicians to handle child mental health concerns in their communities by offering free or low-cost IECMH training

Speaker Summaries

Sheri Dawson, Director of the Nebraska Division of Behavioral Health under the Department of Health and Human Services: Nebraska has taken cross-agency collaborative steps to combat the mental health provider shortage, including the innovation of the Behavioral Health Education Center and the development of partnerships with the Division of Family Services. Nebraska has launched several pipeline programs, like the state Ambassador Program and F.A.R.M C.A.M.P, to connect high school students interested in a career in behavioral health with skills and training opportunities. The state has also expanded provider capacity by offering subsidized mental health training to primary care physicians. Nebraska’s philosophy is that there is no one strategy to tackle the provider shortage – a whole-system approach is necessary to break bureaucratic silos and collectively address a multi-faceted issue.

Sheila Smith, Co-Director of National Center for Children in Poverty: Sheila is a subject matter expert focusing on supports for infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH), including the need to support specialized IECMH training for clinicians. Clinicians must consider and factor in impact of childhood events and parent/child relationships on early development. Dr. Smith discussed successful state models and emphasized the importance of mental and behavioral health support for children involved in the welfare system. Dr. Smith gave several examples of states building the capacity of existing providers to support IECMH treatments, including from Arkansas, Colorado, and Washington.


February 16, 2022 – Opportunities to Strengthen Title IV-B


Lisa Cauley – Senior Director of Child, Family, and Adult Services for the North Carolina Department of Human Services, Division of Social Services


Title IV-B of the Social Security Act is scheduled for reauthorization in Congress this year. This funding stream supports children in the child welfare system or at risk of entering care, designed around prevention and early intervention.  These discretionary grant programs have allowed states to develop complementary programs and supportive services that cater specifically to states’ priority populations and initiatives. Reauthorization presents opportunities to strengthen IV-B so governors can better utilize this funding stream to support children and families working with child protection services.

Key Takeaways

  • Child and adolescent mental health, community-based services to reduce and prevent child maltreatment, and reunification supportive services for children in foster care remain priority areas w/in human services for Governors and policy advisors.
  • Burdensome federal rules and regulations create barriers to states’ ability to utilize funding in an efficient and effective manner
  • Flexibility in utilizing IV-B funds would assist states’ ability to provide critical individualized resources that layer on top of other child welfare services (like title IV-B) to keep families together when possible

State Discussions

The greatest barriers states experience when utilizing IV-B funds include:

  • Inability to braid and blend funding allocations creates barriers to spending smaller amounts of money allocated from IV-B
  • Limitations on using funds for children’s medical services when Medicaid is unavailable
  • Strict regulations on funding sources prohibit states from customizing services and programs to meet families’ individual needs
  • Cumbersome short grant cycles for Kinship Navigators strain administrative resources (I.e. cost, time) that are already limited

State perspectives on improving the use and coordination of IV-B funds include:

  •  Raise the limitation on administrative costs from 10% to 20% to meet need for additional staff capacity and equipment
  • Allow states to use IV-B funds on concrete supports and legal services for family reunification, as allowed under IV-E
  • Promote and encourage collaboration with sister agencies providing medical, mental health, and workforce supports to explore pilot programs for innovative service delivery
  • Increase flexibility for uses of funds to include purchasing necessary technologies for child protective services visits, including tech and devices are compatible with remote visits and monitoring.

Governors’ greatest priorities around prevention, reunification, and adoption include:

  • Improving child and adolescent mental health and education
  • Providing access to community-based and home-visiting programs
  • Addressing parents with substance use issues through targeted Parent Partners program
  • Preventing the maltreatment of children through prevention services
  • Prioritizing the family reunification of children in care

March 16, 2022 – Leveraging Innovative Technologies in Human Services


  • Thea Ramirez, Founder and CEO, Adoption Share—A technology nonprofit helping states to reduce barriers to adoption through their Family-Match application, which predictive analytics to match children with their forever families.
  • Jamia McDonald, Public Sector Strategy and Operations at Deloitte—Expert consultants assisting states in building predictive models to monitor workload efficiency, understanding staffing needs, analyzing bottlenecks, and automation for improved delivery of social services programs.


Adoption Share

  • Family-Match utilizes technology to identify appropriate connections between child and adoptive families. By bridging technology and the agency worker’s clinical skills, scientific attributes provide predictive pairings between the child and family.
  • Technology is the driving force of innovation and reform in health and human services; by employing efficient and cost-effective data and methodologies, enhanced outcomes for individuals and families can be realized faster and on a larger scale.


  • In preparation for the unwinding PHE, Deloitte has assisted states in building predictive models to monitor workload efficiency, understanding staffing needs, analyzing bottlenecks, and automation.
  • The unwinding PHE has the potential to create service and support disruptions for individuals; predictive analytics are helping states bridge and prevent the service gap by creating warm hand offs for clients that will be impacted by the decrease in FMAP.
  • ARPA funds allow states to explore improvements to program integrity through enhanced oversight and program analytics:
  • Opportunities to leverage ARP funds include technology investments, evaluating complex policies to support staff, implementation of automation to lower error rates in benefits applications, and streamline processes.

Key Takeaways

Adoption Share

  • There are children in US foster care systems who are eligible for adoption and do not have a family identified to adopt them. Prospective adoptive families outnumber children who are waiting to be adopted by a ratio of 5:1. It’s not scarcity and lack of families, it’s a breakdown in connection between children and eligible families. “It’s a connection problem”.
  • In July 2018 Adoption Share matched 700+ children, placed 450+ children in pre-adoptive homes, and finalized 310+ adoptions. Florida forecasts potential savings of $38million over a span of 8 years.
  • 3 Core Principles for Program Success:
    • Inverse the Outreach: Focus on finding the best family for a child’s needs.
    • Visibility is Key: Build out a centralized repository of families to allow workers to access a broader pool of candidates quickly.
    • Leverage the Data: We gather data from families and children and use to make the best possible matches beyond the family’s preference.


  • Administrative dollars in SNAP are where states have been innovating the most to drive change. States have focused on addressing structural issues through Self-Serve portals, expanding capacity, automation, training for service delivery, and outreach to vulnerable populations.
  • In Pennsylvania – DHS caseworkers received a high volume of calls regarding Pandemic EBT eligibility, creating a significant backlog for processing eligibility.
    • Office of Income Maintenance (OIM) developed a call center to triage the volume of calls.
  • OIM also developed a robotic process automation (RPA) bot to compliment the caseworker’s intake capacity, which cleared the backlog and reallocated 2 dozen FTEs. In Kentucky– Kentucky “KyNet Benefits” consolidates existing communication tools increasing resident engagement and program efficiency.


April 20, 2022 – TANF & SNAP Pipelines to Address Workforce Shortages



  • Jen Davis, Policy Advisor for Governor Gordon
  • Katie Hogarty, CEO of CLIMB Wyoming


  • Algeria Wilson, Policy Advisor for Governor Whitmer
  • Joe Billig, Division Administrator, MI Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity


CLIMB Wyoming:

  • A nonprofit organization partnering with the state’s TANF program, with a specific mission to serve low-income, single mothers so they can achieve self-sufficiency through career training and placement.
    • State TANF dollars are used to provide career training and placement supports to extremely low-income moms that are within 30%-40% of the federal poverty level
  • Utilizes a trauma-informed approach to meet the needs of their mothers and ensure that they have the tools they need to obtain and retain a good job and transition into industries that offer family-sustaining wages, including plumbing, pipefitting, trucking, and professional office careers
  • 80% of CLIMB Wyoming graduates double or triple their monthly wages just two years after graduating the program


  • SNAP E&T program is a critical part of Governor Whitmer’s 2022 $2.1 billion New Economy plan that aims to lift individuals out of poverty and back into the workforce
  • Michigan’s model is a volunteer SNAP E&T program that links together MI Department of Health and Human Services and MI’s Workforce Development Agency, and leverages both 100% and 50/50 SNAP E&T reimbursement funds

Key Takeaways

Proactive employer and business engagement is critical to ensuring that program participants obtain promising jobs that meet community needs—dedicated staff that manage relationships with local businesses are essential to the success of both these programs.  

CLIMB Wyoming:

  • Intentionally keeping training programs short (~8-10 weeks) can minimize the financial cost incurred by moms when they take time away from the workforce to invest in reskilling and workforce training
  • CLIMB Wyoming provides participating mothers with options for their career development by connecting them with 5-6 potential employers to determine the best fit, and keep participants engaged
  • Focus on Soft-skills development: training in problem-solving, communications, and executive functioning are critical to success in the workplace but are often left out of traditional workforce training programs

Michigan SNAP E&T:

  • Michigan engages community partners to mitigate real local workforce shortages while bridging the transition from participant training to employment
  • Program Promotion of is a critical part of recruitment: Michigan created a toolkit containing templates for partners to use in various scenarios, including social media marketing, job fair collateral, or at American Job Centers specifically
  • Michigan’s SNAP 50/50 program drew down more than $1.7 million dollars this year, offering targeted services to hard-to-reach populations, like the homeless or TANF-ineligible families
  • External partnerships with FNS and the Seattle Jobs Initiative for technical assistance has been key to expanding 50/50 services and providing more support for participants entering the workforce


Session Presentations

May 18, 2022 – Meet Them Where They Are: Identifying and Addressing Gaps in Child Care


  • Kentucky: Lesa Dennis, Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Community Based Services
  • Iowa: Liesl Seabert, Rural Community Revitalization Program Manager, Iowa Economic Development Authority



79 of Kentucky’s 120 counties (66%) are considered  child care deserts, where there are more than 3 children per available child care slot

In response, KY’s Department of Community Based Services, Division of Child Care (DCC) established grant programs to improve supply in rural areas and child care deserts:

  • Child Care Desert Areas Matching Funds Grant – Provides matching funds up to 100%, to increase supply in rural areas (11 active grantees)
    • DCC is utilizing ARPA for start-up grants in counties experiencing child care deserts, and anticipates ~30 awards or until funds run out
  • Family Child Care Startup Grant: One-time grants available up to $2500 to assist in covering start-up licensing fees and purchases of items needed to establish a family regulated child care home (14 active grantees)
  • Business Partnership Grant Opportunities: helps support employers to provide their own child care services to their workforce (3 active grantees)


The Rural Child Care Market Study Grant program (RCCMSGP) supports rural communities in determining the specific child care needs, and provides resources for planning

  • Iowa set specific thresholds for community eligibility to disqualify suburbs and focus on rural populations with the most need.  
  • 7 grant recipients during FY22 totaled $70,000 in funding.

This genesis of this program represents a multi-agency approach: first conceived through conversations with Governor Reynolds’ staff, the Iowa Department of Management, Department of Human Services, Iowa State University, & a private sector partner, First Children’s Finance

  • Collaboratively brainstormed how the program would continue on after initial funding ends so that grantees (city governments and nonprofits) are better positioned to embark and build on next steps with their own investments

Iowa modeled the RCCMSGP after another successful program (grants for renovation/construction for child care facilities) and housed the program within the Center for Rural Revitalization, in the Iowa Economic Development Authority

Key Takeaways

Sustainability is top of mind:

  • In Iowa, communities found that current state resources and grant offerings weren’t actually addressing their underlying child care challenges, so market survey were employed to empower communities to investigate, instead of applying band-aid fixes
  • No ARPA $$ support the RCCMSGP—Gov. Reynolds lobbied the legislature for state funds so that this funding can continue even after time-limited federal funds sunsets
  • Kentucky prioritized bringing new providers on-line in child care deserts, without sacrificing current child care providers:
    • KY has been piloting programs to perform research on capacity of current providers, and receives constant feedback from stakeholders to ensure constant improvement

Tailoring solutions to specific communities helps to address the unique needs of different economic landscapes:

  • Grant applications in Kentucky require prospective grantees to submit a business plan, including an environmental scan, so that the state can receive input from current providers on the child care landscape from the provider prospective
  • In Iowa, market studies not only provided analysis of the economic landscape in communities, but also proved valuable as leverage with the business community to earn buy-in.
    • Small committees performed the market study, shared results with local private businesses, who were more willing to partner on investments which could be leveraged for more grant funding from the state.
    • Iowa has also started to layer in a business incentive grant program, to encourage private businesses to offer more child care services to their employees.

June 22, 2022 – Combatting Childhood Hunger in Summer 2022


  • Share our Strength: Bernadette Downey, Associate Director for Government Relations and Advocacy and Carolyn Vega, Associate Director of Policy Analysis, Center for Best Practices
  • Maryland: Augustin Ntabaganyimana, Deputy Executive Director of Programs, Family Investment Administration, Maryland Department of Human Services

Federal Update

Keep Kids Fed Act: On June 25, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Keep Kids Fed Act (KKFA) to mitigate the impact of the end of the child nutrition waivers due to expire next Thursday, June 30, 2022. This Act will extend critical funding and flexibility for communities to provide children healthy meals this summer and support schools and daycare providers impacted by supply chain challenges and high food costs for the coming school year.

What Changes: Whereas for the past two years families could automatically receive school lunches at no cost, qualifying families must now apply for, and complete eligibility renewals, in order to receive free and reduced-price lunch services through the National Food Lunch Program.  KKFA increases the reimbursement rate for school lunches and school breakfasts to help offset inflation of food costs and workforce shortages for schools. Schools will receive 40 cents more for each lunch, and 15 cents more for each breakfast served.

What Continues: KKFA maintains operational flexibilities through SY22/23 to mitigate administrative and fiscal challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. Flexibilities like food delivery, grab-and-go meal options, and exemptions to congregate meal settings aim to bolster access to services.


Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry Campaign – Helping launch and improve programs that give all kids the healthy food they need to thrive. The campaign’s strategy focuses on working with local partners to identify and eliminate the barriers for kids.

Summer hunger landscape across the country:

  • The number of summer meals served in July 2020 was nearly triple the number served in July 2019.
  • Even after communities began to re-open in 2021, the number of summer meals served doubled that of 2019. (July 2019 – 95.1M meals; July 2020 – 262.7M meals; July 2021 – 190.6M meals)


  • The Summer SNAP for Children Act passed in 2019 to reduce poverty and hunger for children in Maryland by providing an additional food benefit directly onto a SNAP EBT card.
    • $30 per child per summer month and $10 per child in December for continuity during winter break.
  • Developed as part of the national demonstration project under the USDA FNS Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC), Summer SNAP is now in year 3 of the pilot program and continues to expand:
    • 14 jurisdictions will participate in the program in PY 2022 compared to 6 in PY 2021
    • 4,200 Summer SNAP recipients/year in PY20& PY21, 102,000 recipients/year in PY22 (24X increase)

Key Takeaways

Strategies for States to consider in maximizing access to summer and school meals:

Capitalize on all available waivers for States. In addition, to assist in alleviating possible barriers or challenges for families and schools, States should consider universal branding and messaging as they roll out implementation (reenactment of the reduced lunches requirement and eligibility) of KKFA for the SY22/23

Explore alternative certification methods:

  • Direct Certification through Medicaid: This demonstration project helps identify and certify children in Medicaid households for free or reduced lunches without using individual household school meal applications.
  • Exercising the community eligibility provision: Allows schools in high poverty areas (40% or higher) to provide free schools meals to all students without collecting and processing individual school meal applications. chools in high poverty areas (40% or higher) to provide free schools meals to all students without collecting and processing individual school meal applications.

Coordination between state and local governments is the key to success: For MD’s Summer SNAP Program, the required local share of funds is calculated based on the state’s school construction formula.

  • As a result, several jurisdictions choose to contribute more than the base minimum, which allows them to serve more children in their area.
  • MD’s program is funded through a combination of state general funds and local government contributions. Governor Hogan’s budget commitment of $4.8 million for SFY 2022 increased the State share of funding as well.

Questions to Consider as Next Steps:

  1. How do your child welfare and food support agencies collaborate to determine hunger’s role in removals for neglect?
  2. How do your education and food support agencies share data and student information?
  3. Has your state taken advantage of all existing waivers and flexibilities?


July 20, 2022 – Whole Family Well-Being: Upstream Home Visiting


  • Oregon: Cate Wilcox, Maternal and Child Health Section Manager and Title V Director, Public Health Division, Oregon Health Authority
  • Ohio: Alicia Leatherman, Administrator, Early Childhood Home Visiting and Maternal and Infant Wellness, Bureau of Maternal, Child and Family Health, Ohio Department of Health (ODH)



The Oregon Universal Home Visiting (UoHV) Initiative – is a voluntary home visiting program provided by a registered nurse who conducts home visits for all mothers and newborns within two weeks of birth. The program is intended to strengthen and support families by providing holistic supportive services such as physical and mental health wellness checks, lactation support, and assessments for social determinates of health such as food security, transportation access and child care planning to ensure families have their needs identified and met.

  • Legislation passed in 2019 under SB 526 to develop, implement, and sustain home visiting for all families of newborns. SB 526 also required all commercial health benefit plans to cover this service.

UoHV was developed to focus on primary “upstream” prevention for children and families- offering 1-3 home visits after birth. UoHV universally offers families support before any form of child maltreatment may occur.


Through a January 2019 Executive Order, Governor DeWine created the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Home Visitation with a goal of examining how to increase the state’s home visiting programs and expand programs across the state. The committee presented 20 recommendations aimed at tripling the number of families served through evidenced based home visiting services.

From these recommendations, Ohio leveraged State and federal funding to upscale and expand four evidenced based home visiting models by utilizing:

  • State and federal Medicaid funding to expand the Nurse Family Partnership program from 6 counties in 2020 to 26 counties in 2022.
  • Referrals for Families First Prevention services and Parents as Teachers programs through local public children’s services agencies.
  • Leverage existing State prevention services, in partnership with Ohio’s Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) to provide expansion grants – awarding $1.26 million creating 850 slots for families.

Key Takeaways

Strategies for Governors’ consideration when pursuing enhancements for home visiting programs:

Explore opportunities to blend/braid funding streams:

  • State general funds can support:
    • State level infrastructure (including staff)
    • Start-up funding through expansion grants to local agencies.
  • Medicaid and commercial health benefits plans.
  • IV-E Families First Prevention & MIECHV funds.


  • Coordination between State and local government is key to success: In Ohio’s State general funds assist local agencies by providing expansion “startup” grants to bring more providers and programs on-line to support increased slots.
  • In Oregon, Early Learning Hubs (ELH) serve a group of counties and help coordinate services for families while local public health officials perform home visits and assessments.


COVID-19 caused setbacks in program implementation, primarily due to issues maintaining the necessary workforce capacity.

  • Because OH offers Medicaid benefits on a fee-for-service basis, the state increased hourly billable rates for services to boost wages, and attract and retain workers.
  • Ohio also re-aligned the State’s work requirements to match those of the program’s evidence-based, which reduced barriers to entry for potential workers, increasing the number of eligible potential employees.

Questions to Consider as Next Steps

  1. How might your state better leverage home visiting services as a prevention tool across child welfare, MCH, and other human services fields?
  2. What opportunities exist to capitalize on home visiting services to support benefits delivery for other programs?
  3. Home visiting can act as an important component of a State’s early childhood system as an early access point for families to get referred to services. How can home visiting better collaborate or support your State’s early childhood system?

Additional Resources on Home Visiting

August 17, 2022 – State Discussion on Policy Priorities

During the August HSPAI monthly call, the Children and Families team welcomed Governor’s human services policy advisors for an off-the-record discussion about their current portfolios, priorities, and challenges going into fall 2022. During the call, advisors participated in discussions around three topic areas:

  • Collaboration and process improvement between and within state agencies;
  • Improving child and family physical and mental health;
  • Improving child and family economic stability.

State workforce challenges was a standout and recurring theme throughout each of these topic area discussions—recruitment and retention within the direct care workforce continues to be a thorny issue, delaying momentum for implementation of new service delivery models.  States look to scholarships, loan repayment programs, and incentive packages, but retaining staff with enough experience to operate in supervisory and leadership positions remains a large barrier. States also discussed issues around allocating ARPA funds and reported challenges in addressing current issues through sustainable channels (i.e. maintaining salary increases/incentives through regular budget revenues).   Within the topic of child welfare, serving youth with complex behavioral health needs was a shared concern among advisors; advisors noted that issues serving this population expose large gaps between child welfare, juvenile justice, and behavioral health systems.

View the discussion jamboard.

October 26, 2022 – Human Services Workforce Recruitment & Retention


Fairfax County, Virginia

  • Alycia Blackwell, Deputy Director of Programs & Services, Fairfax County Department of Family Services
  • Sandi Slappey Brown, Child Welfare Assistant Division Director for Operations, Children, Youth and Families Division, Fairfax County Department of Family Services


Fairfax County Department of Family Services (DFS) has seen a considerable increase in vacancies within the Children, Youth, and Families Division (Child Welfare)—8% vacancy rate during the pandemic, 15% currently.

To address high turnover and recruitment issues, DFS established two primary goals:

  1. Reduce staff vacancy rates in child welfare within 12 months; and
  2. Ensure quality services to children and families through adequate staffing.

Through collaboration with the Department of Human Resources, DFS developed a comprehensive strategy specifically for child welfare staff and supervisor recruitment and retention with a three-prong approach:

  • Emotional Wellbeing: DFS developed an enhanced EAP with customized content specific to the needs of DFS employees, resulting in increased engaged with services. DFS also created Compassionate and Reflective Employee Spaces (DFS CARES Rooms) & Social Work System of Support (support groups) to increase peer connections.
  • Professional Development: Increased accessibility to professional development by creating new opportunities for Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) clinical supervision, establishing a new dedicated clinical supervisor position, and sponsoring ongoing training. A training partnership with Franklin Covey supported leadership development for supervisors and m. DFS is also partnering with the Butler Institute at Denver University to redesign DFS’ Child Welfare Institute onboarding academy. The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. DFS is also partnering with the Butler Institute at Denver University to redesign DFS’ Child Welfare Institute onboarding academy.
  • Physical Safety: Offers Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) through collaboration with local law enforcement for safety record checks and maintains active partnership with the Division of Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence to address safety issues in DV cases for clients and staff.

Key Takeaways:

  • Strategies for consideration when addressing recruitment and retention within human services fields:
  • Explore opportunities to develop partnerships with other agencies, especially DHR to collect data and develop strategies attuned to the agency’s specific needs.
    • Telework policy and hybrid work environment
    • Classification and Salary review
  • Enhance recruitment efforts by strengthening relationships with universities and internship programs.
  • Audit onboarding processes to improve integration of new hires and personnel.
  • Explore opportunities to expand professional development supports and resources through clinical supervision, coaching services for supervisors and managers, and on-demand training for staff to participate at leisure.

Questions to Consider as Next Steps:

  1. How might your state better leverage policies and resources to support improved work-life balance and mitigate workforce attrition?
  2. What priority initiatives within human services may be affected by staff attrition and how can you calculate greatest need compared to greatest impact?

Additional Resources on Human Services Workforce:

Please contact Jess Kirchner ( with any questions about the network.

Our Focus Areas

  • Whole-family Approaches to Serving Children and Families
  • Early Childhood Education and Care
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Human Services Data and Delivery Systems
  • Housing and Homelessness
  • Food Insecurity and Hunger
  • Family Economic Security
  • Anti-Poverty Solutions
  • Foster Care, Kinship Care, and Adoption
  • Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment
  • Empowering Families and Communities
  • Reducing Barriers to Opportunity and Equity

Meet the Team

  • Jordan Hynes, Program Director
  • Jessica Moise, Senior Policy Analyst
  • Jess Kirchner, Policy Analyst
  • Mackenzi Matthews, Policy Coordinator

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Elected Chair of National Governors Association

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Elected Chair of National Governors Association

Utah Governor Spencer Cox Elected Vice Chair Portland, Maine – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was elected chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) as the bipartisan association works alongside ...
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NGA 2022 Summer Meeting

NGA 2022 Summer Meeting

The National Governors Association's 2022 Annual Summer Meeting was held was July 13-15, 2022, in Portland, Maine. Governors met to collaborate on bipartisan solutions to leading policy issues including computer ...
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Governors Urge Quick Action on the Bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act

Governors Urge Quick Action on the Bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act

National Governors Association’s Community Renewal Task Force Co-Chairs Governors Mike Parson and Albert Bryan, Jr. released the following statement on the bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act, introduced by Senate Agriculture ...
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Briefing on Infant Formula Shortage

Briefing on Infant Formula Shortage

On Tuesday, May 17, 2022 NGA hosted a briefing for Governors’ offices with the White House, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ...
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