Opinion

Boosting Youth Work’s Stature

Ralph Rosenberg
Executive Director
Coalition for Family and Children’s Services
Des Moines, Iowa

“Aiding Front Line Youth Workers” [October] is a timely editorial. Hopefully, the editorial is the first step to dramatize the direct links between recruitment and retention of quality staff and good work.

In other fields, like education, the direct links are a given, endorsed by all political parties. In youth work, we work with the same children and families as the schools, but are down in the pecking order in terms of support.

I gently disagree with Janice Nittoli, who was quoted as saying there is a dearth of good information and scattershot data about workers. Many organizations, including my own, have been tracking starting or average salaries, turnover rates and qualifications for several years, and comparing them to comparable professions, such as teachers. Nittoli estimated that wages of child welfare workers average between $21,360 and $30,590. These salaries would be high for Iowa, and I imagine for other states as well.

You started your editorial with a comment on the human services work force being the least visible part of the labor market.
Youth work itself is the least visible part of that work force. As a former elected official, I would recommend removing the invisibility cloak. (Apologies to Harry Potter.)

Invite elected officials to join your board, not to just tour your programs. Invite the courts to join you in your campaign. Show people the value and challenges of [youth] workers on the front lines.

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