Pay raise for state workers motivates college students

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services hopes about $1,600 a year will help recruit and keep social workers in the state.

Beginning Sept. 16, entry level social workers’ salaries will increase by 5 percent. Current employees will also see their pay raised to the threshold. It’s their first major pay raise in eight years.

Lexie Crayne isn’t a social worker yet, but it’s her senior year at Murray State University. An abused child inspired her to major in social work. When telling her story, she said: “I basically played the waiting game, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to help with the family situation.”

It’s not hard to recruit students to Murray State’s social work program, according to Interim Chair Peggy Pittman-Munke. “They see first hand the difference they make in the lives of children and families.” Munke understands why retention is a problem for the state, though. She said it can be a problem nationally, too.

The caseload, Munke says, is tough. In some states, she says it’s not uncommon to be more than 90 days behind on paper work. The job, Munke added, can also be dangerous. She cites this example: “When you have someone who’s angry that the judge took the children away, they make come looking for the social worker. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.”

Munke thinks gestures like the raise will help. Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson hopes to do it again in the future. “If we can bring fiscal responsibility into the state, we can then go back and make these kinds of important decisions and have periodical pay raises,” Glisson added.

Glisson also has a message for soon-to-be graduates like Crayne: “We’re hiring. We would love to have some new social workers and then also to retain. We’re respectful to the folks that have been there and staying on the job trying to help families.”

For Crayne, the job isn’t about the money, but the increase. “I feel like the 5 percent raise is awesome, and it compensates for the work and the stress that we have as social workers.”

The raises include social workers, case workers, and correctional officers and workers. To see the full release by the CFHS, click here

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