NASW Co-Signs Letter on Higher Education Act

Sep 7, 2007

There is a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act now before a committee of senators and congressman. They are negotiating the differences between the House version and Senate version. The House version would provide up to $5,000 in college loan forgiveness for up to five years of work in the child welfare field. NASW recently cosigned the letter below with the Child Welfare League of America.

Dear Conferee:

The undersigned organizations are pleased that the House and Senate “College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 ” bills put greater attention on the need for providing loan forgiveness for individuals who participate in important public service careers. As you craft a final conference agreement we urge you to include in the final bill the sections 131 and 132 in the House version of HR 2669 to ensure that child welfare workers with a degree in social work or related field will receive a limited amount of loan forgiveness after being employed in public or private child welfare services.

A quality child welfare workforce is essential to promoting good outcomes for children in the child welfare system. No issue has a greater effect on the child welfare system’s capacity to serve at-risk and vulnerable children and families than the shortage of a competent, stable workforce. This shortage affects agencies in every service field, including foster care, adoption, child protective services, child and youth care, social work, and support and supervision. The timely review of child abuse complaints, the monitoring and case management of children in foster care, the recruitment of qualified adoptive and foster families, and the management and updating of a modern, effective data collection system that can result in greater and more effective research all depend on a fully staffed and qualified child welfare workforce.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) documented this crisis in the child welfare workforce. The GAO report (GAO-03-357) found that workforce problems limit states’ ability to meet the goals established in the congressionally mandated Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs), and stated that the analysis of the CFSRs “corroborates caseworkers’ experiences showing that staff shortages, high caseloads, and worker turnover were factors impeding progress toward the achievement of federal safety and permanency outcomes.”

This provision will provide incentives for more caseworkers to work in the child welfare field, will help reduce the rate of turnover and help reduce caseloads. We believe that the building block to improving our child welfare system is a strong child welfare workforce. We hope you will give this issue a high priority and we urge you to make sure that this House provision as included in Section 131 is a part of the final Conference Report.

Thank you for considering these essential provisions.

John Sciamanna
CoDirector,Government Affairs
Child Welfare League of America