Department of Family Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Michael A. Becketts

Top 5 Reasons to Work with the Fairfax County Children, Youth and Families Division

(Posted 2022 November)

Woman and Man Having CoffeeIt’s not an exaggeration to say that the child welfare industry is struggling. The Child Welfare Information Gateway states that “child welfare agencies continuously face challenges of recruiting, training, and retaining child welfare professionals.”

Child welfare careers can be a hard sell. The work is challenging, and the pay doesn’t always keep pace with jobs in the latest buzzworthy fields like data science, information technology, or cybersecurity.

And like teachers, but more quietly, child welfare workers are having a moment in which many private sector employers are eager to hire them to fill voids left in the wake of the Great Resignation. With skills like critical thinking, facilitation, organization, and problem solving, these experienced practitioners are in high demand.

Labor reports indicate that local and state governments have been contending with an exodus of staff for some time, partly due to retirements. A recent survey by Mission Square Institute indicates that 38% of responding governments have seen public employees accelerating their retirement plans in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Within the Fairfax County Department of Family Services, vacancy rates for child welfare staff have been hovering around 17% overall, with higher vacancy rates for case carrying practitioners. These staff vacancies create a domino effect as employees switch positions within an agency and sometimes this cascades outward into other partner agencies doing similar work.

The forecast is not all doom and gloom. We’ve acknowledged the challenges. Now let’s explore the rewards of working in child welfare, and the 5 reasons to work with us in DFS Children, Youth and Families.

1. Driven by Meaningful Work

Child and Woman High FiveThere is nothing quite so impactful as knowing that you have made a difference in the life of a child and in many cases their entire family. Child welfare practitioners step into complex family situations, assess ways that families need to be supported, connect them to resources, help them identify actionable steps to change their lives, and walk alongside families helping them to turn their lives around. We offer parenting education and home visitation programs throughout the community that help build stronger families.

In many cases workers help families to remain together or to be re-unified in the case of a family separation due to abuse or neglect. There is no price tag that can be put on the sense of accomplishment that comes from seeing a family overcome their challenges and thrive.

Check out these videos to learn more about the impact of the work we do in Children, Youth and Families.

2. Prioritize Professional Growth

Man with arms crossedThe Department of Family Services is greatly committed to the professional development of staff. The HR Professional Development and Training Team includes dedicated staff and in-house clinical training offerings in support of the clinical licensure requirements and overall professional development of staff seeking to increase their clinical practice capabilities.

We also have a robust Child Welfare Institute with training and development courses to support Children, Youth and Families’ staff. Supervisors within the department have access to additional training to support them in their learning as leaders, including access to the renowned Franklin Covey leadership content. In addition, Fairfax County offers an entire suite of continuous learning opportunities, several networking groups, and opportunities for tuition assistance.

3. Achieve Work Life Balance

Hand holding watch in natureDFS is a great place to achieve a balance between work and home life. Whether you are single with an active life, juggling family commitments, or a caregiver for an older adult, our policies and practices allow for some alternatives to the standard workweek.

Compressed work schedules, flexible schedules, and hybrid telework schedules can be a relief for many employees. Being able to use the flexibility to accommodate demands in your personal life is a benefit for everyone.

In addition, the county is generous with leave for vacations, sick and personal days, holidays, and other options. We offer health care and retirement benefits including a pension plan and optional deferred compensation plan. Learn more about county benefits.

4. People-Centered Culture

Two women smiling with laptopThe Children, Youth and Families Division is a community. Our workforce is committed to supporting one another and lifting each other up. The empathy and encouragement that staff experience in the division is unparalleled.

Recently, DFS installed new DFS CARES rooms in each agency building as spaces for staff to retreat, rest and regroup for a short while when needed. Staff is encouraged to use the paths around the building campus to engage with nature for a break to reset themselves.

Having these spaces to revitalize make all the difference when secondary trauma is a consistent factor in the daily work. Wellness workshops and other offerings encourage life-long choices that promote a holistic approach to their physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial wellbeing.

In addition, DFS is the only Child Protective Services agency in the country with an in-house facility dog team. Rylynn is a support to children and families during sexual abuse investigations, and she is also a support to staff working in CYF. Her calm demeanor and gentle hugs can make all the difference for children facing the hardest time in their lives.

5. Be a Part of the Future of Child Welfare

Smiling woman giving thumbs upIn Fairfax we have adopted a practice model that addresses the past inequities that have complicated the child welfare field, and in some cases eroded public confidence in the work. This approach is team-based, involving several practitioners in the assessment and planning related to each case that comes to the attention of the public child welfare system, so you’ll never feel alone.

The Safe & Connected™ Children, Youth and Families Practice Guidance Profiles supports our supervisors and practitioners in strengthening clinical decision-making and critical thinking and supports shared ownership of key decisions in child welfare. This is an opportunity to be a part of a revolution in child welfare practice that we hope will reshape the way it is done throughout the state and country.

In summary, we need employees who are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of families here in our community. If you think that you have the dedication and compassion apply today or share this information with others you know.

Join Us: Work for DFS

Learn more about the value of working with Fairfax County Department of Family Services.

This posting is part of the Department of Family Services' Community Corner where you’ll find timely information about upcoming events, parenting and wellness tips, programs and services, and more! Share these helpful posts with your friends and family. Don't miss out on future postings! Sign up today!

For media inquiries, contact Department of Family Services' Public Information Officer Amy Carlini by email, office phone 703-324-7758 or mobile phone 571-355-6672.

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