Experiencing the Waves of Change through Workforce Wellbeing and Resilience

April 18, 2024 at 2:07 PM |
Posted by:
Jordyn Jenkins
Jordyn Jenkins

I have had the unique opportunity and privilege to work with Rock County Human Services, while also interning with Alia as part of my MSW program. Rock County first began working with Alia in 2019, starting with the facilitation of workforce wellbeing and resilience groups for CPS. At that time, the core of Rock County’s CPS was broken and had a lot of work to do related to our internal culture, relationships, and practice. In 2021, Rock County entered into a partnership with Alia to create Rock Families First, a movement focused on eliminating racial disparities in child welfare and transforming the child welfare system. Through my first MSW internship that I did with my place of employment (Rock County), I was able to jump into this project work from the get-go and see the process unfold. Now, in my second and final internship, I am interning with Alia as we are in the final transformation phase for Rock Families First in 2024, while still working for Rock County. I’m not only part of the organization in the trenches of the messy and amazing work, but I am also seeing the grit necessary behind the scenes from Alia to help guide and support the organizations leading these transformational efforts in various areas across the nation. To say I have experienced a few waves of change between 2019 and 2024 in Rock County would be an understatement!

“These well-being groups are going to be a waste of time if leadership isn’t at the table with us to hear what we are really going through...” “Spending money on these groups when staff are already underpaid and barely keeping their heads above water, is not going to go over well for staff morale. Why wouldn’t they just use this money to give us a raise?” are just a couple of the things I thought to myself when Alia came on board in 2019. Month after month, Team Alia kept showing up, hearing staff out, sending out monthly reports of themes arising to leadership, and eventually supervisors started checking in on staff, the structure and style of supervision changed, and for the first time in a long time, I felt seen. It took months of showing up to these groups where it seemed like we came together to complain about what wasn’t working, but somewhere during that time, the power started to shift. What those groups did was provide us with tools to look inward and begin focusing our energy on what we can control. There was an increased level of confidence in having candid conversations and showing up with potential solutions and owning our challenges. Eventually, the weight of the collective desire for a healthier department created too much discomfort for those who were not yet ready to move forward, and ultimately – did not make it through the first wave of change. This was only the beginning of our story.

Before Rock Families First was really underway with a plan in place for a co-design effort with lived experts, and before we had increased programming or monetary supports to aid in our current efforts supported by Rock Families First, we saw a decrease in out-of-home placements due in part to a mindset shift within staff that came from increased personal satisfaction and a sense of belonging. There is a clear connection between workforce wellbeing and resilience work, consistency, and service provision. Facing the truth is hard, turnover is hard, finding the money in your budget to invest in your workforce is hard (and scary when you don’t know if the outcome will be worth it), but not taking the leap to address it is harder. I can’t imagine where Rock County CPS would be today without the guidance of Alia and our Rock County leader’s audacity, and we’re not done yet. Looking back on these past five years, a dedication to workforce wellbeing and resilience was the first step, the baby step, to the groundbreaking work that is being done today with Rock County’s child welfare system.