Workload and caseload are important concepts in the management of any human services system. Failure to calculate an appropriate caseload for workers can influence the quality of services he or she provides, as well as negatively impact the morale of workers. How many cases a “typical worker” can handle isn’t as easy to determine as one might think; however, different types of cases require different time commitments, and direct “case service time” isn’t the only time burden a worker might face. Non-case work, whether it’s related to travel, training, or purely administrative functions, is all a part of everyone’s worklife. Determining a caseload size without taking into account these other aspects of workload would be unfair and inaccurate.
American Humane has been involved in workload/caseload studies for many years, operating on the central theme that by helping human services organizations determine an appropriate caseload size, we can help make certain that vulnerable children and families get the services they need. Our underlying belief is that those who provide services to children and families are motivated to provide excellent service, but are often constrained in time and resources to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Therefore, we not only measure how work is currently being done, by measuring how long it takes to complete work functions, we also often measure how long things should take to provide excellent service.
Our years of experience in this field have afforded us the opportunity to understand case services and workload from a unique perspective, as well as to develop a unit costing method for ongoing analysis, budgeting, and planning. This model -- the Workload Analysis and Resource Management (WARM) methodology -- has been used over the years to measure workload in Texas, Maryland, Rhode Island, Kentucky, and Ohio. Recent projects are listed below.
In 1998, American Humane conducted a statewide workload study for the State of Arizona, collecting data on work tasks and the time to complete work tasks from all case managers, their supervisors, and contract workers funded through the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Children, Youth and Families. This amounted to data from some 800 employees. Data collected over a two-week period was then applied to Arizona’s Full Time Equivalent (FTE) personnel analysis and to Arizona’s Case Weighting System. New formulas for case weighting were created, and the results were applied to a database that calculated each worker’s total caseload. In addition to defining work tasks and measuring the time to complete them, American Humane analyzed how specific case characteristics (e.g., involving non-English-speaking clients) influenced the time required to complete work-related tasks.
Workload studies in child welfare routinely involve social workers and their supervisors, but social work is only part of a larger system of child welfare. This study broke new ground by measuring the workload and caseload of the attorneys who represent children and indigent parents in court when abuse and neglect has been alleged. The study measured the time it takes court-appointed attorneys to provide dependency court services to children and parents in the Superior Courts of all 58 counties in the State of California.
Since 1998, the State of California has directly funded the attorneys representing children as well as parents who cannot pay for their own representation in dependency cases -- a responsibility previously held by the counties. The goals of this study were to provide budget information and modeling for the California Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and to describe the relationship between workload and standards of practice in the representation of children and parents in dependency cases. At the inception of the project, the AOC currently had little information on how the funds requested by each county are spent on dependency attorneys, or what the characteristics of practice are among the dependency attorneys in the various counties of California, America’s largest and most demographically diverse state.
This study, which involves collaboration between American Humane and the National Center for State Courts, the National Center for Youth Law, and North American Indian Legal Services, was completed in June 2003.
The “California WARM” project, completed in 2000, was a workload analysis involving all employees of child welfare services across all 58 counties in the state. Since the State had not conducted a workload study for over a dozen years, the project involved an extensive policy review, documenting changes in law, policy, and social work practice that could influence casework time. This was followed by direct measurement of the amount of time taken by employees to provide case and administrative services for a two-week period. Focus groups were then convened to discuss work areas that were determined to require special consideration and set standards for how long casework should take at a minimum practice standard and a best-practice standard. Additionally, a methodology for the budgeting of child welfare services was undertaken to understand the cost implications for reducing caseload to meet the minimum and best practice targets for a child welfare system that distributes over $75 million in funds.
This study, which required the analysis of time data from almost 16,000 staff members, was one of the most comprehensive child protective services time studies done to date, asking almost every employee of the California Department of Social Services to record their work time using over 100 task descriptions and approximately 50 definitions of services.
The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, in conjunction with the Chief Administrative Office, contracted with American Humane to conduct an analysis and review of functions of Children Social Workers (CSW). This study examined both the tasks of a CSW's job and the aspects of the job that created barriers to productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency. This information helped management determine better ways to enhance workers' performance by helping them do their jobs faster and in a simpler and more economical way. A part of the study also addressed issues related to worker-to-supervisor ratios.
This study was a result of an agreement between the County of Los Angeles and Social Services Union Local 535, SEIU, AFL-CIO. The study’s scope and goals were subsequently approved and implemented by the County's Board of Supervisors.
In 2002, American Humane measured the workload of Eligibility and Welfare-to-Work workers in Monterey County, California. This project entailed the development of preliminary workload standards for all case service staff, including those associated with CalWORKs/TANF, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Welfare-to-Work, and other benefits, and benefits analysts employed by the county. The project included a policy review and focus groups to determine service definitions, the training of appropriate staff, and the collection of data through the county’s “subnet” system of interlocking PC computers within the State of California’s Interim State Automated Welfare System (ISAWS) network. After completion of data collection through the ISAWS system, American Humane conducted a thorough examination of the data to capture the relationship between cases, the services they receive, and the mix of cases and services that make up households. Ultimately, workload study data were used to revise the county’s case weighting system.
American Humane contracted with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to conduct an empirical analysis of child welfare workload and construct a staff allocation model. The purpose of the month-long workload study was to develop reasonable workload standards and an optimal staffing allocation for the Child and Family Services program.
The scope of the study included constructing a task inventory to identify and classify 41 discrete caseworker activities. More than 400 social workers, clinicians, and specialists provided data on 45,124 hours of staff time and 11,084 cases. The study, which had widespread participation by all regional and central office staff, measured all case-related child welfare activities in each program area and produced a local infrastructure and methodology for replication.
The State of Montana began developing a workload study infrastructure with technical assistance obtained through the National Resource Center on Organizational Improvement at the University of Southern Maine. American Humane was selected under subcontract to the National Resource Center to provide technical assistance to the state.
Following a comprehensive internal work definition process, the state initiated a series of workload studies. The initial time studies were for 2-week periods, which required complicated prorating methods to estimate the number of cases and service time for a full month. Recently, the state completed a month-long study using a statewide census approach. In that workload study, 272 workers provided ongoing time recording and structured estimation to specified standards using a version of American Humane’s TimeDataCollector proprietary workload software. Participants logged more than 45,000 hours of work during that study.
This was the first child welfare workload study to address the work of both contract agency staff and public agency staff. Including both groups was an important advance in understanding the total effort required to assess, plan, provide and document the broad array of child welfare services. Eleven district offices, including the Administration for Children’s Services in New York City, and 42 contract agencies participated in the study. Understanding the contribution of both public districts and contract agencies is critical to the process of addressing the basic requirements of the New York State Assembly.
Detailed time-log data from more than 2,200 caseworkers were analyzed. The findings of the time-log data collection and the other components of this study led Walter R McDonald & Associates (the primary contractor) and American Humane to recommend that New York State reduce its caseloads in both district offices and contract agencies. The recommendation takes into consideration the need to improve performance on many indicators, including hiring additional caseworkers, providing specialized training and supervision, providing a management structure with maximum flexibility and adaptability, and conducting additional analyses that link child welfare outcomes to time spent on cases.
American Humane, under contract with Walter R McDonald & Associates, conducted a comprehensive measurement of the time spent on current case activities for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Children’s Administration. A primary goal of this study was to estimate the amount of time required to engage in child welfare practice for it to be considered “best practice.” A secondary goal was to establish a baseline set of time-study data that can support a cost-benefit analysis for a new State-Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) for Washington State. An additional, innovative goal of this project was to develop a fully documented technology transfer module -- that is, to equip the Children’s Administration with the tools, models, skills, and infrastructure necessary for independently and continuously reassessing workload in response to shifting factors that influence the provision of child welfare services in the state.
All 44 local Division of Child and Family Services offices in six regions statewide participated in the workload study, including a census of more than 2,100 social workers, supervisors, program managers, and specialists. For an entire month, all participants used American Humane’s proprietary workload software, TimeDataCollector, to record all client-related and administrative tasks. Data collection with the software is straightforward and user-friendly, and American Humane provided training and technical assistance throughout the study period.