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Career Ladder Opportunities

Thanks for the article on Hector Fabio Urrea in September (“Climbing Career Ladders”). There are numerous ways that entry-level youth workers can advance their career, and Hector’s story illustrates that.

I don’t think that any youth worker should assume that they will be able to remain a youth worker and make $50k any time soon. But there are lots of promotion opportunities available.

The Annie Casey Foundation study points out that 75 percent of nonprofit executives will retire in the next 10 years, many of them by the end of 2010. So there will be lots of leadership opportunities with substantially higher wages and benefits for those who have grasped the possibility and have prepared themselves for leadership responsibility.

Agencies would do well to consider the benefits of having an in-house leadership development program on an on-going basis. Encouraging entry-level staff to pursue higher education is part of the package. But they need help with their personal growth and development, too.

Relying on outsiders to fill coming leadership vacancies is both expensive and organizationally stressful. Developing in-house staff is a win-win strategy.

Larry Wenger, President
Workforce Performance Group
Newtown, Pa.

Risk Assessment's Limits

The September article, “Improving Risk Assessment Proves Elusive,” showed some limits of risk assessment and, perhaps even more, studying their accuracy statistically. It seemed that the Schwartzes, and perhaps others, expect more from risk assessments than they can deliver. They are intended to reveal the danger to a child in the setting where the child is. Nothing more.

When serious risk has been established, then the agency faces the question of whether the child can remain in the home, with services, or be removed and placed, and if so, where. Very soon after, case goals for the child, and perhaps the family, must be established. This depends on a case assessment, followed by a case plan.

These people did not distinguish clearly between these assessments, making it very difficult to get clear findings.

Other factors would be difficult, if not impossible, to measure. Bizarre behavior that is puzzling to adults increases likelihood of removal and placement. Perhaps even more, especially with older children, their nuisance value, i.e. how much they bother adults, affects removal decisions. If there is someone in the picture who likes the kid, removal is less likely. I don’t know how you could capture these factors in research.

Sound professional case assessments are almost universally absent, and that is possibly the biggest weakness in current child welfare practices.

Jake Terpstra
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Retired child welfare specialist, U.S Children’s Bureau.



Investments Replace Grants?

Re: “A Push for Investments Instead of Grants,” September.

PRIs [program-related investments] are a niche vehicle and one that cannot and should not replace traditional grant making. PRIs add yet another costly level of bureaucracy and further alienate small not-for-profits from funding sources.

Jeremy Christopher Kohomban, CEO
Children’s Village
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.