Salaries for caseworkers vary widely in midstate

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Sep 2, 2015 4:24 AM

(Harrisburg) -- Social work is a high-stress, often low-paying job.

It's no different for caseworkers in Dauphin County's Children and Youth Services, a beleaguered department looking to make a round of hires quickly as part getting a full license from the state.

Despite the vacancies, caseworker salaries at the county's CYS are competitive, at about $34,000. 

Caseworker salaries in most of the largest midstate counties hover between $28,000 and $36,000 a year.

Berks and Cumberland counties are the outliers.

Berks pays up to $38,000, while Cumberland calls caseworkers "lead human services case managers" and pays them about $56,000 a year.

Cathleen Palm,an expert in child protection services, says there's been a lot of discussion about speaking up if someone suspects child abuse.

"But we haven't talked as much about what happens once you make a report," she says. "How do you have people who are really well-trained and really can assess safety and can really figure out what's going on in a family not necessarily to remove a child, but to help the family get strengthened so the child can remain safely? We just haven't given that enough attention, and we probably don't value those jobs nearly as much as we should."

Palm says compensation matters, but there's more to the discussion.

"We should be paying attention to the salary but I think we also then have to look at it and say what are the outcomes that are attached to that salary, and is it something beyond just compensation that keeps people on the job?" says Palm.

She says many people get into the field because they want to help children, but can be chased away by the low pay, high pressure, and demanding work.

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