CJCA Toolkit: Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Qualified Staff January 2019

Jan 22, 2019 |

CJCA has recently published the CJCA Toolkit: Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Qualified Staff.

Click here for the link to the new toolkit.

During the past two decades, the issue of hiring and retaining juvenile justice staff has received increased attention. As the body of evidence-based research has grown, juvenile justice agencies throughout the nation have embraced a reformative approach to working with youthful offenders. Although data show the positive impact of using research-proven treatment approaches, employing such approaches has created challenges with hiring and retaining qualified and competent staff. Traditionally, the role of a “juvenile correctional officer” was solely to maintain safety and security and control the population. More recently, the role of a juvenile direct care staff worker has shifted to that of a “counselor” who leads youth in developing skills through role modeling and mentoring. Many jurisdictions require direct care staff to engage with youth using a strengths-based approach and techniques such as therapeutic coaching, interactive supervision, and supportive skill development. As such, juvenile justice facilities must seek individuals who possess a unique skill set and whose personality characteristics and qualifications can foster healthy coping, living, and relationship skills. Many agencies find themselves asking: How do we find qualified staff? How do we know potential candidates will be a good fit for our agency/facility? How do we retain these staff members long term?

Staff recruitment, hiring, and retention are complex issues that must be closely examined. Finding staff who are a good fit for the agency/facility and determining what motivates staff to stay in their positions are key areas for exploration. Research has shown that these components have a costly impact on facility culture, financial resources, and youth outcomes. More specifically

  • Staff departures increase the risk of serious incidents. Vacancies can lead to a reduced staff-to-youth ratio and increase the risk of youth and staff injuries.
  • High staff turnover increases stress on direct care staff. High staff turnover leads to frequent use of mandatory overtime, as supervisors attempt to cover critical vacancies (e.g., mandatory posted positions). Regular use of mandatory overtime promotes staff burnout, which can reduce staff’s ability to engage with youth and increase the likelihood staff will leave their positions.
  • Decreased therapeutic interactions result in less-than-desired youth outcomes and failure to achieve the agency mission. Much of the “treatment” in a juvenile justice facility setting occurs in the context of daily staff interactions with youth. The staff-to-youth relationship is a vital component in helping youth achieve their goals. Operating with less than adequate staffing levels or a facility using mostly temporary staff to cover vacancies can dilute the therapeutic nature of the staff-to-youth interaction. Consequently, high staff turnover can jeopardize an agency’s ability to achieve its mission and positively impact the lives of the youth it serves.
  • Staff turnover is financially costly. High staff turnover forces an agency to cope with unanticipated expenses such as overtime costs, workers compensation claims, and legal fees that result from an increased number of serious incidents. In addition, hiring staff is a significant resource investment (e.g., training, coaching, uniforms), and losing even one direct care staff can cost an agency thousands of dollars.

This toolkit aims to provide juvenile justice facilities with specific strategies for recruiting, hiring, and retaining direct care staff. The toolkit provides examples, templates, and tools that may be used to improve current practices and, ultimately, to select and retain qualified staff. Specifically, the toolkit aims to share literature on best practices for recruiting and retaining direct care staff;explore factors contributing to staff retention and turnover; provide specific strategies for recruiting, hiring, and retaining competent staff; and offer a series of steps to consider within each section.

The toolkit is designed for readers to use the sections of most relevance to their facility’s need. Above all, the authors hope readers gain valuable insight that enhances current practices related to building and sustaining a qualified workforce.