Crain’s Commentary: Nonprofit child welfare agencies facing critical labor shortage

This guest voice was published in Crain’s Detroit Business on January 19, 2021.

Essential family services in Michigan like adoption and juvenile justice facilities are facing a critical labor shortage.

While the labor shortage has been a chronic problem for Michigan’s nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies, COVID-19 has made it much worse.

As a member of the Association of Accredited Child Welfare Agencies, I speak from experience when I tell you we are constantly seeking to hire qualified workers.

Unfortunately, a major roadblock to filling our open positions is the fact the state dictates and caps the cost of care in terms of reimbursement for direct care services.

A similar cap doesn’t exist for state-run facilities, which means while we can afford to start hiring at $10-$12 an hour, the state of Michigan hires workers with similar qualifications for its state-run facilities starting at $18-20 an hour.

Nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are also competing for hourly workers with the likes of Amazon, which is paying $15-$17.50 an hour in Michigan, or at Meijer, which is offering $13-$15 an hour, according to a recent search on Indeed.com.

This creates a major competitive disadvantage with state facilities or even fast-food chains, which pay workers $10-13 an hour, depending on location.

Employees at non\profit, accredited child welfare agencies work around the clock and are responsible for the care of children with a wide range of needs. Working in our industry allows people to make a real difference in the lives of children and families.

And our highly trained front-line workers play a critical role supporting Michigan families, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to meet the growing needs of Michigan’s children and families, policymakers need to explore fairness in funding to help us deal with this critical labor shortage.

Research shows that investing in Michigan’s nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies on the front end will pay dividends for Michigan’s children, families and taxpayers.

Nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are an essential part of Michigan’s child welfare system from providing youth mental health services to bringing families together through adoptions.

Through our national accreditation status, we meet the highest standards for safety and positive outcomes and our deep experience in Michigan gives us expertise regarding the needs of children and families.

Fairness in funding would better equip our agencies looking to hire Michigan workers and provide fair pay for critical work.

In the meantime, Michigan residents looking to work with a non-profit, accredited child welfare agency should visit the AACFA website where there is a link to available jobs at our member organizations.

Judith Fischer Wollack is president of the Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies and CEO of Wolverine Human Services.

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies applaud state’s Director of Juvenile Justice appointment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMonday Jan. 18, 2021 
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communicationsssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – The Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) today applauded the appointment of Derrick McCree as Director of Juvenile Justice at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services  

Derrick McCree has a proven track record of advocating for children and families and he understands the critical role non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies play in Michigan’s child welfare system,” said Judith Fischer Wollack, president of the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies. “We congratulate him on his appointment, and we look forward to partnering with him to ensure we can meet the growing needs of children and families and raise awareness of the critical need to provide fair funding for Michigan families.”  

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All members of AACFA are 501(c)(3) organizations and are accredited by the National Council on Accreditation or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Our accreditation means we follow national best practices, and we are subject to independent audits and reviews to ensure the highest standards for safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility.   

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies facing critical labor shortage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communications, ssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies facing critical labor shortage
Fairness in funding would better equip agencies 
looking to hire Michigan workers and provide fair pay for critical work 

LANSING – Nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are sounding the alarm bell regarding a growing shortage of workers that could affect critical family services like adoption and juvenile justice facilities.  

“From providing youth mental health services to bringing families together through adoptions, non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies are an essential part of Michigan’s child welfare system,” said Judith Fischer-Wollack, president of the Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies. “Because we don’t receive the same level of funding as state-run organizations for the same services, we are at a major disadvantage to meet the growing needs of Michigan’s families and we are facing a critical labor shortage that has been exacerbated by COVID-19.” 

The state determines and caps the cost of care in terms of reimbursement for direct care services for non-profit, child welfare agencies. A similar cap does not exist for state-run facilities.  

This creates a major competitive disadvantage with state facilities or even fast-food chains when it comes to wages. 

The starting salary for an employee at a nonprofit, accredited child welfare agency is typically $10-$12/hour, while the state of Michigan hires workers with similar qualifications for its state-run facilities starting at $18-$20/hour, according to a search of jobs on the State of Michigan website.  

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies are also competing for hourly workers with the likes of Amazon, which is paying $15-$17.50/hour in Michigan or at Meijer, which is offering $13-$15/hour, according to a search on Indeed.com.  

Fast-food chains across Michigan typically start at $10-$13/hour, depending on location — a similar pay as non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies whose employees work around the clock and are responsible for the care of children with varying needs. 

“Research shows that investing in Michigan’s nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies on the front end will pay dividends for Michigan’s children, families and taxpayers,” said Spectrum Human Services CEO and President Josh Swaninger. “As we deal with this critical labor shortage in order to meet the growing needs of Michigan’s children and families, policymakers need to explore fairness in funding.” 

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies can now request variances to their staff/child ratios because of COVID-19, which has exacerbated the labor shortage. As an example, for residential programs the staff/child ratio is one-to-five, but variances could shift that to one-to-six or one-to-seven. 

Jobs are currently available in WayneOakland and Macomb counties. The AACFA website has a link to available jobs at member organizations.  

All members of AACFA are 501(c)(3) organizations and are accredited by the National Council on Accreditation or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Our accreditation means we follow national best practices, and we are subject to independent audits and reviews to ensure the highest standards for safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility.   

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