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: