Page 7 - Work Force July-August 2016
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CSEA efforts lead to bill setting child protective services caseload limits
 After years of legislative maneuvering, CSEA has helped pass a bill that will put the needs of New York state’s children first by getting legislation passed that will limit child protective services (CPS) workers’ active cases to 15 per month.
This was one of several legislative victories for CSEA that will help protect New York’s most vulnerable citizens, as well as those who care for them.
The CPS bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Donna Lupardo (A.10506) and state Sen. Martin Golden (S.2691) is among those that are awaiting delivery to the governor.
“I applaud Assemblymember Lupardo and Senator Golden for taking the lead
on this crucial
issue for our
state’s children
and those
who work to
protect them,”
CSEA President
Danny Donohue
said. “They helped lead the way for both legislative houses in passing this bill that addresses the sad reality that children are harmed when child protective services departments are understaffed and have too many cases to investigate. A statewide uniformed caseload standard will ensure that child protective services workers are able to devote the necessary time and resources to these critical cases.”
“Child protective services workers are required to carry out regular visits and other routine duties to ensure that the children under their supervision are being cared for in a safe and stable environment,” said Lupardo. “These visits, mandatory court appearances and other
July-August 2016
time-consuming duties are a critical part of ensuring child welfare. Smaller caseloads are essential
to allowing for sufficient time and resource allocation for each child.”
From July 2015 to January 2016, 30 percent of all CPS workers outside of New York City had
more than 15 cases per month, numbers that are nearly identical to caseloads throughout the first half of 2015.
The new legislation will help address the large workloads that are challenging CPS workers. CSEA has long expressed concerns about the ongoing lack of adequate funding and chronic understaffing at county Social Services departments.
Understaffing has led to heavier caseloads for workers, a situation
that also potentially places children at risk and unfairly shifts the responsibility to the child protective services workers if children are harmed.
‘We simply cannot keep every child safe’
To those who work to protect children every day, the governor’s signing the bill into law can’t come soon enough.
“Some of the most vulnerable people in our society are depending on the governor to sign this crucial piece of legislation,” said Heather Taylor-Lancette, a caseworker
in Onondaga County and a CSEA Onondaga County Department
of Social Services Unit activist.
“It is the responsibility of CPS to protect those who cannot protect themselves, but CPS workers cannot do this without adequate staffing and caps on caseloads. We implore the governor to take this important
Glen Tuifel and Garrett Wakefield discuss the CPS caseload crisis that is putting children at risk.
step for the children and families whose lives hang in the balance.”
“It’s not unheard of for a caseworker to have 35 open cases right now,” said Glen Tuifel, a Nassau County Department of Social Services case supervisor. “The kids aren’t getting the services they should and the workers are getting a workload they can’t keep up with.”
“A statewide case standard is long overdue, and I applaud our legislators for recognizing the danger such high caseloads have put our children in,” said CSEA
Erie County Local President Denise Szymura. “In Erie County, it has not been uncommon for some of our workers to have more than 60 open cases. No matter how dedicated our workers are, we simply cannot keep every child safe if something is not done. I just hope Governor Cuomo recognizes what’s at stake and does his part by signing the bill into law.”
“The big benefit is that our members will be able to devote more time to each case,” said longtime CSEA Westchester County Unit activist Karen Pecora, a secretary in a Department of Social Services district office handling intake of child protective services cases. “People don’t realize that caseworkers aren’t just going to see the family. They have to follow up, they must stay up to date on their progress notes and they often
have to go to court. Our members do a phenomenal job because of their diligence and compassion, so they always get the job done, but a decreased caseload just stands to benefit everyone.”
There would also be a two-year phase in period that would give county administrators plenty of time to hire more caseworkers
to allow them to comply with the 15-case limit. The new legislation would allow caseworkers to spend significantly more time on each investigation per month.
“We have been arguing for years about the tremendous strain placed on our child protective services caseworkers because of outrageous case load numbers,” said CSEA Nassau County Local President Jerry Laricchiuta. “Governor Cuomo must sign this bill to protect our children and give our CPS workers
a fair chance of performing their duties to the standard expected of them.”
“It’s completely unfair to blame the caseworkers,” said Garrett Wakefield, a caseworker at the Nassau County Department of Social Services. ”Some of our members aren’t sleeping at night because they’re so stressed out and worried about the kids.”
— Wendi Bowie and Jessica Ladlee
 “The kids aren’t getting the services they should and the workers are getting a workload they can’t keep up with.”
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