Child Protective Specialists with three or more years on the job will now be able to use their experiences to help out new employees—and earn an extra $2,500 a year—by participating in a peer mentorship program announced Feb. 7 by Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner David Hansell.
“The mentorship will allow new CPS the opportunity to troubleshoot difficult work challenges and questions with experienced CPS peers who understand what it’s like to be a new CPS,” he told a room full of rank-and-file members and union officials at the agency’s Harlem office.
The CPS Mentorship Program will be open to CPS in good standing with three or more years on the job. Mentors will work with three newly-hired CPS, spending an hour-and-a-half discussing the challenges they face via telephone check-ins or in-person meetings.
“We hope that the program will improve morale, lower attrition, and will benefit the long-term growth of our frontline employees, which in turn will help us to better carry out our mission of making sure children are safe,” Mr. Hansell said.
Mentors will be expected to commit to the program for two years, and will be paid $2,500 per year for the additional responsibilities. Agency officials noted that about 500 mentors will be selected over the next five years, with about 120 expected to be chosen this year.
Anthony Wells, president of District Council 37’s Local 371, represents the 2,000 CPS staff who investigate more than 60,000 reports of child abuse or neglect each year. He stated that the program would help address staff turnover, which has become a critical issue.
Can Provide More Support
“The city has invested a lot in hiring people. Hundreds of workers, and we need them to stay,” Mr. Wells said. “The reality is, this is really a way to make our members get more support so you can do the difficult job you do effectively and efficiently.”
The initiative is the agency’s first-ever mentorship program, and Mr. Hansell noted that the idea has been in the works for at least a year. The mentorship was funded through the DC 37 equity fund, which was negotiated as part of the union’s most-recent contract to supplement pay in hard-to-recruit titles across different locals.
“It was very refreshing for ACS to say ‘we want to do this for your membership,’” said Rose Lovaglio-Miller, DC 37’s Director of Research and Negotiations. “This mentorship program is something we will be looking at and monitoring because what we as a union are hoping to do is for y’all to be so successful that we then can go to the city and say ‘See? We need this in other agencies.’ You will be the forefront to push this through in the rest of the city.”
A selection committee made up of ACS Borough Office representatives will interview candidates seeking to become mentors. The deadline to apply is Feb. 28, and agency officials said that they expect the program to begin by the end of April.
Put Them At Ease
CPS Shavon Edwards said that she was interested in participating, because she believed that talking to a fellow CPS, rather than someone higher up such as a supervisor, would “help mentees feel more comfortable.”
Mr. Wells admitted that one concern for the union was that the presence of a mentor could strain the relationship between CPS and their supervisors, and that was why they recommended group meetings.
“We know CPS get great support from their managers and supervisors, and none of this will change any of that,” Mr. Hansell said. “But we also know sometimes it’s nice to have somebody else to talk to who’s not your boss.”
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