Event Summary

On April 8, AEI’s Naomi Schaefer Riley organized a panel of leading experts and administrators of child protective services (CPS) from around the country to discuss the difficulties that CPS departments are facing when it comes to hiring, training, retaining, and getting the most out of caseworkers.

Gregory A., McKay, the director of the Arizona Department of Child Safety, spoke about how he helped catalyze a turnaround at the department. In his department, response rates have improved significantly, case backlogs and response times have been reduced greatly, and caseworkers no longer feel as overwhelmed by a deluge of cases or frustrated at an inability to do their best to help families.

They rest of the panel brought to light the difficulties that CPS departments have when looking to attract and hire qualified and passionate caseworkers. These include long hiring timelines, relatively uncompetitive salaries, overly specific degree requirements, inadequate training for caseworkers, an unclear career path, and the demanding nature of the job. The panel members agreed that most of these issues can and should be addressed by department administrators and policymakers.

— Charlie Alldredge

Event Description

Members of our child protective services (CPS) teams are charged with making one of the most difficult, sensitive, and life-altering decisions of any public official — determining whether a child is safe in his or her home. Unfortunately, around the country, CPS agencies suffer from high turnover rates, large numbers of unfilled positions, a dearth of proper training, low rates of pay, and poor treatment by politicians and the public.

Join AEI for a distinguished panel of former and current CPS leaders and researchers to discuss how we can attract the right people to these positions and better prepare them for this important role.

 Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.

 If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


Event Materials

Event Transcript



11:45 AM
Registration and lunch

12:00 PM
Naomi Schaefer Riley, AEI

12:05 PM
Gregory A. McKay, Arizona Department of Child Safety

12:20 PM
John Mattingly, New York City Administration for Children’s Services (former)

12:35 PM
Panel discussion

Tracey Feild, Annie E. Casey Foundation
John Mattingly, New York City Administration for Children’s Services (former)
Gregory A. McKay, Arizona Department of Child Safety
Diane Redleaf, Family Defense Consulting
Cassie Statuto Bevan, University of Pennsylvania

Naomi Schaefer Riley, AEI

1:20 PM

1:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact William Kessler at [email protected], 202.862.7193.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Event Speaker Biographies

Tracey Feild heads the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s strategic child welfare consulting efforts, working closely with state, county, and city agencies to implement major system reforms that improve outcomes for children. Currently, she is articulating reform agendas for federal and state child welfare finance, policy, and standards. Previously, she was vice president of East Coast operations for the Institute for Human Services,  executive director of the Maryland Department of Human Resources Social Services Administration, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Human Services, and research associate at the Urban Institute. Ms. Feild earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in housing and public policy from Michigan State University and has studied public administration at the University of Southern California’s Washington Public Affairs Center.

John Mattingly served as commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children Services (ACS) from 2004 until 2011. During his tenure at ACS, he increased preventive services, rebuilt its child protection system, started the accountability system known as ChildStat, and hired teams of retired detectives to assist workers in their child protective investigations, among other initiatives. Dr. Mattingly received a doctorate in community development from the Pennsylvania State University and a master’s in social work from the University of Pittsburgh. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Graduate School of Social Work, specializing in leadership and management in child welfare and juvenile justice.

Gregory A. McKay was appointed director of the Arizona Department of Child Safety by Gov. Douglas Ducey in 2015. Under his leadership, the department safely reduced the number of children in state foster care by 10 percent, reversing a 10-year growth trend. Previously, Gov. Janice Brewer appointed Mr. McKay to create the Office of Child Welfare Investigations to protect alleged victims of felony child abuse and sexual abuse. In 2014, he was appointed to the independent Child Assessment Response Examination Team formed by Gov. Brewer to study and present a strategy for improving Arizona’s child welfare system. Before his career in child welfare, Mr. McKay served in the Phoenix Police Department and was awarded Arizona’s investigator of the year in 2012.

Diane Redleaf is a civil rights lawyer based in Chicago and has initiated and co-led over a dozen civil rights cases for families in the child welfare system. She founded the Family Defense Center in 2005 and served as its executive director and legal director until 2017. Ms. Redleaf is the author of “They Took the Kids Last Night: How the Child Protection System Puts Families at Risk” (Praeger, 2018), which illustrates the constitutional balancing act where medicine, family interests, and child safety can clash. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and was the recipient of the Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women Founder’s Award in 2014.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a resident fellow at AEI, where she focuses on child welfare and foster care issues. Specifically, her work analyzes the role of faith-based, civic, and community organizations in changing the foster care and adoption services landscape. She also studies how socioeconomic factors affect foster care placement and services and the impact of the opioid crisis on child welfare. She is concurrently a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Cassie Statuto Bevan is a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice and was a Child Welfare Fellow at the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, and Research. Dr. Bevan also worked in the US House of Representatives as a professional staffer and later staff director on the Ways and Means Committee and the International Relations Committee. During her time on Capitol Hill, she was appointed by the US Congress to serve as a commissioner on the US Commission on Child and Family Welfare and the US Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. Dr. Bevan received a doctorate in child development from Columbia University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Bush Program in Child Development and Social Policy at the University of Michigan.

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