Walden Family Services Supports Allocation to Fill Gap

Walden Family Services supports California budget allocation to fill gap created by minimum wage requirements

SAN DIEGO, CA—Walden Family Services urges California lawmakers to allocate much-needed funds to address the impact of State-mandated increases to minimum wage on the salaries of social workers. Current law has caused a $26.7 million shortfall felt by licensed nonprofit Foster Family Agencies (FFAs) across the state.

When a child enters the welfare system in California, the State contracts an FFAsuch as Walden for services, paying for necessary care via that contract. Rates for care­—including salaries—are fixed in the California State budget with no yearly salary adjustment for cost-of-living increases, despite a 3.6% annual mandated increase to minimum wage through 2022.

Social workers employed by FFAs are highly skilled and educated—by law, they must hold Master’s degrees—and as exempt employees, entitled to a salary equal to at least twice the minimum wage.

This means that in 2019, FFA social workers should earn double the $12/hour minimum wage, or $49,920. Unfortunately, the current FFA rate schedule only supports an average salary of $47,304, meaning that in order to remain compliant Walden and other FFAs must seek supplemental funding (donations, grants, and private contributions) to meet even minimum standards.

By comparison, social workers who work in mental health, substance abuse, healthcare, or educational settings earn an average range of $56592 to $73896. This wage discrepancy leads to greater job turnover at FFAs, as social workers leave agencies in search of a better living.

“We want to pay our social workers what they’re worth,” says Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “They are highly knowledgeable and passionate advocates for the kids they work with, and they’re ready to go—day or night—when they get a call from one of their clients or families. They put the time needed into building relationships with children who’ve already experienced the trauma of turbulent home lives and separation. We need them to stay, and that costs money.”

Unable to bridge the gap in salary requirements, some agencies have scaled back FFA programs or closed entirely, leaving vulnerable children are left with nowhere to go: The tragic consequence is that families who might be willing to accept them can’t be recruited, trained, or supported.

To encourage lawmakers to adopt the needed $26.7 million allocation, Walden is sending a delegation to Sacramento and participating in a letter-writing campaign in time for budget subcommittee hearings in the California Senate on April 4, 2019 and California Assembly on April 10, 2019.

To lend your voice in support, please contact your California State representatives. For sample letters you can send, please download here:

Sample Letter from Resource Parents

Sample Letter from Social Workers

Fact Sheet