DFCS Head: Low Caseworker Salaries Contributing To High Turnover

A state Senate study committee may have provided hints as to some big child protection issues for next year’s legislative session. As heard on the radio

Tuesday’s meeting of the six-member bipartisan Senate committee included presentations from Division of Family and Children Services Interim Director Bobby Cagle and Office of the Child Advocate head Ashley Wilcott.

The biggest topic of discussion: salaries for Division of Family and Children Services caseworkers.

Interim DFCS director Bobby Cagle told the committee the average starting salary for a new hire with a bachelor’s degree is $26,000. For a new hire with a master’s degree, it’s about $32,000

“We’re having a great deal of difficulty in recruiting highly qualified staff to our department, and I think it also makes it difficult, once we do hire staff, to retain that person after they’ve been trained and get out and get some experience,” said Cagle after the meeting.

The newly appointed division head said low salaries are a big contributor to the division’s 25% turnover rate. He said the salaries should be closer to $32,000 and $40,000 for hires with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, respectively.

Gwinnett Republican Sen. Renee Unterman, who sits on the study committee, said she doesn’t want the state to become a training ground for private business.

“We have to improve what the standards are for this job,” she said. “We have to improve the fact that people want to work for the state of Georgia, and they want that to be their career.”

An independent assessment of the entire division is currently underway.

Both Unterman and Cagle said its results will provide more insight into other potential legislative issues.