High turnover rate continues to plague DSS

A child welfare worker with the Carteret County Department of Social Services prepares to deal with stacks of paperwork Wednesday, which is one of the issues contributing to a high turnover rate in the child protective services division. (Cheryl Burke photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Carteret County Department of Social Services Director Clint Lewis said this month his agency continues to struggle with a high turnover rate, with much of that in the child welfare division.

“In child protective services, at one point this past year we had a 69 percent turnover. That hurts tremendously,” Mr. Lewis said during the County Consolidated Human Services meeting Monday, held via Zoom.

For the entire agency, which includes multiple sub-departments, the turnover rate in the last six months has averaged 29%, he added.

In an annual report on DSS services, Mr. Lewis said he attributes the main reason for the high turnover rate to burnout caused by the long hours, paperwork and severity of cases the agency sees.

Mr. Lewis, in a recent interview with the News-Times, said other sub-departments, such as adult protective services, are also seeing an increase in the number and severity of cases.

One way the agency is coping with the loss in positions is by hiring temporary, trained contract personnel.

“This has actually been working very well,” Mr. Lewis said. “They are getting training with our agency while they are contracting with us and we are able to fill positions more quickly from a qualified pool. We are able to see the person’s work ahead of time in the event there is a permanent opening they want to fill.”

Consolidated Human Services Director Cindy Holman, too, acknowledged the turnover rate has been a challenge she continues to battle.

“It feels like a hamster running in a wheel and not being able to get your feet on the ground,” she said. “At one point last year, we had nine vacancies. We are working hard to recruit and keep our workers.”

Ms. Holman echoed Mr. Lewis’ report that things she sees affecting child welfare employees is the increased difficulty of the cases, coupled with reams of paperwork and long hours. Plus, now there is the added stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This isn’t just happening here, it’s happening across the nation,” she said.

Mr. Lewis said many of the child protection cases also involve family members dealing with substance abuse issues.

“Until we get the opioid addiction under control, it’s difficult to solve the other problems that may be occurring in a family,” he said.

Substance abuse-related issues continue to add to an increased demand on the foster care system, as well, Mr. Lewis said.

While it’s discouraging, Ms. Holman said she and her staff continue to recruit and look for ways to improve the demands on child welfare workers and other employees.

“We are charged with keeping children safe,” Ms. Holman said. “We keep at it and try to fill those vacancies.”

Board member and school psychologist Carol Armistead said she was concerned about the issue because she sees an increased need for child welfare services in her line of work.

“Since (COVID-19), I’ve seen an increase in dysfunctional families and (the department is) losing the workforce that we desperately need. We really need double the workers we have,” Ms. Armistead said.

In other action, the Human Services Board:

  • Voted to accept a $164,853 allocation through the Division of Public Health, Communicable Disease Branch to enhance COVID-19 detection activities.
  • Approved the Carteret County Work First Plan update.


Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(15) comments

relax at Shack

Unfortunately, these children have suffered trauma that will follow them well into adulthood. For starters, how does a 5 year old comprehend living with a foster family because his/her momma and/or daddy is in prison? None of this is a quick fix, it takes a lot of time, effort, and funding. The grandparents and other extended family members are exhausted, but trying to do their best in raising "these" children, while the parent(s) are still out there "running around" not giving a second thought as to the welfare of their children, as long as there's granny, or auntie to care for them.


True! This area has such a huge problem with opiod addiction and there's little to nothing being done to help except by the church based mission programs and the wonderful non profits who are stepping up to help. Instead of spending millions on administrative buildings, perhaps the local government should be spending money to help reduce the workload on DSS workers and to help combat addiction and child neglect. There is such a huge need and yet we want to just attract more and more people to live here w/o addressing those needs.

David Collins

Disposable children used as a cash cow for drug money . One of the worst , if not the worst , examples of humans about this planet .


The government acting as the parent. What could possibly go wrong?

David Collins

How shocking that you have so little faith in government solving all our problems . After all , government has such a stellar record of doing just that . Just ask Joe . Oh , forgot . He doesn’t take questions that are not posted on his teleprompter and cleared well in advance . So sorry .


I hear you and I feel you about the turnovers. If you are overworked that can happened especially if you are working triple hours trying to be keep up. You can get burnt out. I use to work a job that was meant for 3 people and when I resigned no one cold filled my shoes, so they split the work. Why didn't they do that when I was there. Anyway if you need some help I will work there under contract because of this pandemic, I was full time but now I am part time. I lost my insurance and currently looking for full time work. I can file, answer the phones, run errands,, type and very good with computers. [smile]


There is a very small percentage of fix for junkies. No one seems to understand that. If a person was by some small chance to get “fixed” ; their brains are so rotted that best case scenario is a lifelong burden to everyone and a skill set of basic house cleaning (at best). I have several in the family. Oh I’m sure there is the odd “feel good turned theirselves around” story out there but you can’t prove the rule with the exception. Unfortunately junkies just keep having babies and everyone else has to pony up.


"Encouraging more & more people to live here" as if it will be mostly only folks with the $ to support the services they require is exactly right beachmami.


Exactly. If we attract more and more people to live here and have first or second homes, the service industry will continue to grow. I think the average wage is around $10.66/hour. This isn't enough to support that person around here anywhere except maybe some crappy older trailer. The services required to support the additional service industry workers will outweigh any additional $ that the county thinks it will get. I don't have the answer for this one, but I know most of you on here are like me where you don't want overspending on services when the government should just spend more wisely. There are also huge infrastructure projects that will be required too to support the additional people. I think we'll be eclipsed by the level of need that will come with the additional service workers.

David Collins

Not babies , meal tickets is what they are .


I found that there was even more info about the problems this county (and the country) face in this article. Definitely eye opening, although not surprising. Crazy w/so many issues that money is being spent to promote and beautify for more $10.66/hour jobs instead of addressing the many many low end service workers and individuals with significant challenges that impact the rest of us in one way or another.

Here's the link:



The sheriff works so hard to imprison the small time drug dealers in Carteret. This impinges on one of the few enterprises that can pay a living wage to workers in this area. Obviously the demand is there, thus the purveyors will continue to exist. Service trades don't pay anything, nor do the health care jobs in this area. For over 20 years I worked in health care, and the pay was flat, and wages fixed between employers. With Carteret heavily vested in the rich; and without an economy that can support working families, the only choice is to leave; or engage in alternative industry. Not everyone can be a government overpaid worker.

David Collins

Where did you get that $10.66 hr number ? Perhaps that is what Molly Maid pays . My daughter and we as well had to pony up $100 for someone to show up and chase dust bunnies for an hour or so . An hour or so if you are lucky . Apparently , $100 was not enough for our bunny chaser was a no show after 5 weeks . By the way , it was cash only .

Blackwatch Plaid

Doesn't help that the compensation for such hard work is laughable to begin with, and you can get a better deal just by driving 20/30 more minutes to Craven County. Carteret County for the past 2 decades has bled institutional knowledge between County Managers downsizing or forcing employees out, or employees moving on to greener pastures. If Carteret County wants to retain skilled people they need to offer competitive pay.


Corruption runs folks off. And this will continue. DSS is not exempt from this run off.

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