Monthly Archives: May 2013

IFPS Supervisors’ Expectations from Workers

In IFPS, supervisors go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that their workers are supported and receive adequate training to perform their duties. Supervisors want the best for their workers and care about the efficiency of the work that is delegated to the workers. They strive to empower their workers by allowing considerable responsibilities and trusting them to use critical thinking in which to carry them out.

The job of a supervisor can be very challenging when workers do not meet supervisors’ expectations when carrying out their duties. Understanding what the best workers bring to the job can increase their success. There are many things that supervisors look for in their workers. Consider the following chart:

What do supervisors look for in workers?

So what are you supervisors around the nation looking for in your workers?

Posted by Moneefah D. Jackson

To Engage or Not to Engage?

That, of course, is a rhetorical question. Nevertheless, for many professionals, the skillful process of engaging families can be a great challenge. Why do so many professionals seem to struggle with engagement? Well, the reasons can be as diverse as the professionals who enter this work and the families who receive services. In IFPS, there are several reasons that make it a challenge.

The intervention is short-term. IFPS counselors may feel pressured to get the intervention process started without really getting to know the family.

Families may be reluctant to receive services, so they say “yes” to the intervention and then become actively unavailable in one way or another. There are families who do not wish to connect with their counselors or perhaps they may be facing some unknown problem of which the counselor is not aware that cause a disconnect.

The assumption the work needs to “get going”. For many, this work would be much easier if counselors could just jump right into conducting an intervention without having to concentrate on how to effectively engage families.

But, the challenging road of engagement cannot be avoided. So this opens the door to some questions.

1)     What does it really mean to engage families?

2)    How do we engage families?

3)    Why do we need to focus so much of our time in building a good rapport with clients?

The process of engaging families is not about just doing a job to get it done or making families feel good. The concept of engaging families has been around since the grassroots of social work. It came about as a way of building rapport with clients so that professionals will grasp a better understanding of how to work with clients on expressing themselves about the challenges they may face in their lives.

The process of engaging families requires competency, respect, creativity, insight, empathy, patience, humor, genuineness and the ability to connect with families so that one can have a better understanding of the crisis that families face. The Social Work Dictionary (5th Edition) states the following about engagement: “Rapport is the state of harmony, compatibility, and empathy that permits mutual understanding and a working relationship between the client and the social worker.” So then, the process of engaging families is about spending time to get to know the family and allowing them to know you as their partner in the process of change.

When we build a good relationship with families, the intervention process can move smoothly and the family will be able to succeed throughout the intervention. We need to spend time on building a good rapport with clients. We cannot help if we do not take the time to know. Engaging families can lead to effective goal development and adherence to the treatment plan. Then families will be able to benefit more from the services and become happy about the outcome of the intervention.

Building good rapport with families, and outlining the benefits of change, can lead to a full intervention with a successful outcome rating. To engage families, we as counselors, need to be warm (i.e., showing interest, understanding clients’ crisis, acceptance) when interacting with the different families we serve. When family members are engaged, counselors do not have to be too concerned about ongoing conflict throughout the intervention regarding the families’ compliance. Having a positive relationship will decrease the possibility of an interrupted intervention or perhaps a case being turned back.

It has been said that you can reach the heart of a person through their stomach; so why not bring an engaging snack to the family, like coffee, juice, donuts. Allow time for the family to talk about what interests them, highlight their strengths, and let them know that you look forward to working with and helping them. When that happens, families will be able to be empowered to make changes.

So what is your idea about the process of engaging families? Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas.

Posted by Moneefah D. Jackson

Contributing Factors to Therapist Turnover

Getting to the heart of why in-home services therapists leave their job is difficult. To better understand what motivates therapists to stay or leave, we conduct exit surveys for employees who quit as well as an annual survey of current employees.

While we find that staff leave for a wide variety of reasons, themes that arise in these surveys tend to suggest that therapists would like

  • higher compensation,
  • more training, and
  • more supervision time.

We also believe that a key factor in preventing turnover is understanding the millennial workforce. The book Keeping the Millennials gave us some good ideas of how to make us an appealing place to work for this generation. It suggests that having a “cool workplace” is important.

The millennial generation likes to

  • feel connected,
  • have access to technology,
  • have a flexible workplace and schedule, and
  • feel like they are making a contribution to the agency and community.

The book also suggests that it is important to “identify the keepers.” This means that we should identify those who we want to have stay, and be sure to let them know they are important and needed. They suggest giving these individuals special projects to allow them to feel like they are contributing or perhaps “groom them” to take over when current leaders retire.

What We Have Done

We have begun taking steps to address the factors we believe are contributing to our high rates of turnover.

  • The Board of Trustees has increased the therapist salary matrix two years in a row to be more competitive with similar agencies.
  • As stated above, the agency administers employee surveys annually, as well as exit surveys for employees who leave the agency, in an effort to better understand what would make us a more attractive employer.
  • We recently launched a social networking site responding to employees’ desire for more opportunities to get to know each other.
  • We also have strict hiring procedures to try to hire therapists that best fit the organization’s value system and mission.
  • We seek and use staff input in management decisions.
  • We offer supervision toward licensure to encourage therapists to stay longer.
  • Our agency maintains a 5 to 1 supervisor to therapist supervision ratio to support therapists.

We have tried to implement ideas from the literature on millennials.

  • When we identify staff members we believe have strong leadership potential, we send them to our supervisor training and have them fill in when the actual supervisor is on vacation or otherwise unavailable.
  • We are also trying to give therapists opportunities to contribute to our agency beyond their regular responsibilities.
  • We also try to celebrate employment anniversaries in a way that creates a culture of wanting to stay at the agency for a long time.

It is too soon to tell if our efforts have improved therapist turnover, but we are hopeful that as we continue to strive for a fun and fulfilling work environment, our staff members will want to stay for years to come.


Don Fryberger HeadshotPosted by Don Fryberger
Therapist/Administrative Associate
Institute for Family Development

IFPS Retention and Compensation Survey Results

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) recently assisted with the development of the Retention and Compensation Survey and analysis of results. The following is a summary of the 27 responses that were received.

Click here to download the survey summary (PDF file, 86 KB).

In addition to the summary of responses, NFPN conducted further analysis on three issues that required comparison across responses. Here is the summary:

  1. Do agencies with above average compensation have higher retention rates?
    YES. There was a significantly higher number of respondents reporting higher than average compensation who also reported retention rates of 50% or above for the past three years (13) in comparison to respondents who reported lower than average compensation but retention rates of 50% or higher (3).
  2. Do agencies that provide salary increases have higher retention rates?
    NO. There was little difference between respondents reporting retention rates of 50% or higher in the past 3 years along with a salary increase since 2011 (9) in comparison to respondents who reported a retention rate of 50% or higher in the past 3 years along with no salary increase since 2011 (7).
  3. Do agencies that pay significantly more for a Master’s degree therapist than a Bachelor’s degree therapist have higher retention rates?
    YES. All but one respondent reporting at least a $4,000 pay difference between a Master’s degree and Bachelor’s degree plus comparable experience had retention rates of 50% or higher over the past 3 years. All but two respondents reporting a $2,500 or lower pay difference between Master’s and Bachelor’s degree had retention rates of under 50% over the past 3 years.

What can we learn from this survey?

  1. We know from the previous post that high turnover is costly and the earlier the therapist leaves, the more cost the agency incurs. Could the field of IFPS develop a screening tool that would help to identify applicants who are more likely to stay for a longer period of time?
  2. Higher pay appears to be linked with higher retention while, at least in this survey, salary increases are not linked with higher retention. Perhaps IFPS therapists don’t factor in salary increases because they only occur annually, if at all? Agencies definitely do need to consider overall compensation if they want to retain therapists.
  3. Therapists place value on earning a Master’s degree and expect greater compensation in return. IFPS agencies need to look at the difference in pay between Master’s level and Bachelor’s level therapists and make sure that obtaining a Master’s degree is incentivized and rewarded.
  4. In understanding why they stay, agencies need to know that therapists value flexibility above all else. So agencies need to emphasize flexibility when hiring, ask therapists what flexibility needs they have, and fulfill them!
  5. Understandably, therapists leave IFPS agencies for higher pay but a very close second is “professional growth opportunity.” If IFPS agencies could meet this need, more therapists would stay.

Sharing Ideas, Information, and Resources

  1. What tools and resources is your agency using to recruit and retain IFPS therapists?
  2. If compensation is determined mainly by the funding provided through a contract, could IFPS therapists have input on how that pool of funds is allocated?
  3. Do any agencies use loan forgiveness programs to aid an IFPS therapist in obtaining a Master’s degree and to retain that therapist as an employee?
  4. Among the reasons why IFPS therapists stay at agencies are flexibility and a supportive work environment. How are flexibility and a supportive work environment defined by your agency?

Posted by Priscilla Martens
Executive Director
National Family Preservation Network

The Cost of Therapist Turnover: One Agency’s Experience

At our agency, we believe that therapist turnover has both financial and intangible costs.

To understand better how therapist turnover affects us, our management team recently requested an in depth analysis of therapist turnover.

The Direct Cost of IFPS Therapist Turnover

We measured the direct costs of turnover using costs of termination, ad placement, interviewing, training, salary, lost revenue, etc.  The cost to replace one IFPS therapist, including costs to the agency and lost revenue, is approximately $43,000.  In 2011, 8 IFPS therapists left our agency. This means that in 2011 alone, turnover among these therapists cost us approximately $344,000.

Beyond the Dollars: Intangible Costs of IFPS Therapist Turnover

Although intangible costs cannot be measured in dollars, we believe that they are important to take into account.

  • When an experienced therapist leaves and is replaced by someone who has not had experience delivering IFPS, the quality of services offered to families may be impacted.
  • High turnover in a team of therapists may also make it difficult to develop binding relationships and may have negative impacts to employee morale or lead to a culture of leaving in an agency.

IFPS Therapist Retention

We were recently asked what percentage of our IFPS therapists from 3 years ago were still employed here. We were disappointed to find that only about 30% of the 31 therapists from April 2010 are still with us today.

On a positive note, our IFPS therapists do tend to stay longer than therapists in our other programs.  When we looked at all therapists hired between 2002 and 2008 who have since quit, IFPS therapists stayed an average of 28 months while other therapists only stayed an average of 16 months.  This supports current research that suggests that there is less turnover in evidence based practices (Aarons, Sommerfeld, Hecht, Silovsky, and Chaffin, 2009).    Unfortunately, evidence based practices also have substantially higher training costs than other programs.

Agency-wide Therapist Turnover

In light of the identified costs of therapist turnover, we have put together some information about the specific turnover rates across all programs at our agency. The following table and pie chart show therapists hired between 2002 and 2008.  The six month period category describes the amount of time a therapist stayed before leaving or if they are still currently employed with us.  Fifteen percent of our therapists stayed less than six months, 48% left before 18 months, while 25.1% are still currently employed by our agency.

Chart 1

Table 1: Therapists Hired from 2002 through 2008

Six Month



Running Percent

0-6 26 14.9 14.9
7-12 34 19.4 34.3
13-18 24 13.7 48
19-24 8 4.6 52.6
25-30 13 7.4 60
31-35 11 6.3 66.3
36+ 15 8.6 74.9
Current Employees 44 25.1 100

Now what?

We know that turnover among front line workers is costly. We have identified how many people leave, how long they usually stay before leaving, and how much it costs when they leave. Now the question is: how do we keep the good therapists longer?


Don Fryberger HeadshotPosted by Don Fryberger
Therapist/Administrative Associate
Institute for Family Development