DCFS Survey Finds Low Satisfaction, Heavy Caseloads, Lack of Supervisor Support

Public Use Photo by MC2 Josue L. Escobosa

According to a new survey released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, while most of Louisiana’s child welfare workers are passionate about their work, many of them aren’t satisfied with their jobs. The agency has been under increased scrutiny after three toddlers died after their families had been reported to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

The Child Welfare Job Satisfaction Survey was sent to 1,433 DCFS workers in October of this year. The results, released by the auditor on Monday, show that several important issues need to be addressed, including pay, caseload, unrealistic expectations, and a lack of support and respect from managers at the agency.

Employee pay was the most-lamented issue, with several responders noting that DCFS pay scales aren’t competitive and that many employees feel overworked compared to the amount of pay they are receiving. Shortly behind that, however, was the proliferation of unrealistic expectations alongside a lack of respect and support from leadership at the agency.

“The most important issue that needs to be addressed is the amount of workload for one position,” one responder said. “You are a secretary, legal aid, counselor, checking in on providers and updates etc., and if you do not document everything, it did not happen.”

“The most important issue is the lack of involvement and the lack of empathy from supervisors, managers, and upper management to staff members,” another respondent said. “Also, understanding the importance of tone and diction when speaking to staff. I am not a child; talk to me, not at me.”

Interestingly, the majority of respondents didn’t have an issue with their direct supervisor – instead, it was DCFS leadership (Area Directors, Regional Administrators, and State Office Managers and Directors) that failed to demonstrate respect for staff and care about their well-being. Overall, 79.3% felt their direct supervisor treated them with respect and 72.6% felt their direct supervisor cared about their well-being. In comparison, only 51.1% felt agency leadership treated them with respect, and only 39.7% felt leadership cared about their well-being.

High caseloads were another big issue. Only 28.6% of employees felt that their caseload allowed them adequate time to provide children and families with the services that they need, and only 37% felt they had access to adequate resources.

“DCFS has proposed and already begun work on a range of initiatives to address issues with job satisfaction, job performance, and leadership,” the report states. Some of the initiatives DCFS has already undertaken include:

  • Establishing a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Unit and Council to ensure employees have a direct line to and voice with agency leadership
  • Developing a 24/7 coverage model to allow more work/life balance
  • Hosting hiring fairs and streamlining the hiring process
  • Adjusting pay structures
  • Creating a Leadership Professional Development Program
  • Contracting for an Employee Assistance Program to help mitigate stress, anxiety, and secondary traumatic stress experienced by child welfare staff.

“We are committed to make DCFS a workplace where all employees feel satisfied in their jobs and supported by management,” said Acting Secretary Terri Ricks in a response to the survey.

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