Jason Perkowsky, Nassau County Local 5th Vice President and Nassau
County Department of Social Services Unit President, checks his email for
updates about a CPS grievance.

MINEOLA — Too many children are slipping through the cracks of child protective services (CPS) due to understaffing and high caseloads. 

These children include Thomas Valva, the Suffolk County boy who was murdered in 2020 by his father and stepmother. 

Suffolk County is currently in litigation with Valva’s mother, who had filed a $200 million lawsuit against the county for the wrongful death of her son. She had filed numerous reports with the county documenting abuse by his father and stepmother before his death. 

Since that high-profile case, Suffolk County has recently raised its starting pay for Child Protective Services and reduced worker caseloads. 

Understaffing persists 

CSEA members employed by Nassau County Child Protective Services are frustrated that they continue to face persistent understaffing and underfunding, especially in light of mistakes made by officials in their neighboring county. 

Nassau County CPS workers are concerned about their own county after seeing how proactive Suffolk County has been in their efforts to make improvements to the county’s CPS. 


“Suffolk County passed legislation to cap the caseloads, they’re hiring at a more accelerated rate than Nassau County and they increased salaries,” said Jason Perkowsky, Nassau County Local 5th Vice President and Nassau County Department of Social Services Unit President. 

Increasing salaries is the one change that Nassau County duplicated, primarily because they were unable to attract quality applicants. 

Several years ago, New York state conducted a study, which concluded that CPS investigators should not have more than 12 cases. The average Nassau County CPS investigator has 20 to 40 open cases, all this while having the smallest number of caseworkers the county has seen in many years. 

Perkowsky constantly reminds Nassau County CPS administrators that the current status of department understaffing could lead to a tragedy. 

Without adequate hiring practices, it is impossible for Nassau County CPS investigators to handle the large influx of cases coming into the department. 

“I understand that it’s very difficult to predict how many cases will come in, but we are losing workers at a much higher rate than we’re hiring,” said Perkowsky. “Sometimes, people don’t pass probation, they figure out that it’s not the job for them or it’s recommended that they work in another area of the CPS department that’s better suited for that person’s skillset.” 

Hiring is the only way to counteract the number of workers who leave the department. Even then, it will take six months to one year for investigators to be fully trained and prepared to carry a caseload. Until that time, the new hires offer no relief to the current crop of workers. 

“There has to be constant hiring to get to the level of staff that we need,” said Perkowsky. “The county’s expectations keep rising, but staffing never does.” 

To further address the issue, Perkowsky would like to see an advisory committee established that includes CSEA, Nassau County CPS administration and possibly a representative from a not-for-profit that works with abused children to assist in identifying departmental needs to help make CPS more efficient for caseworkers. 

“We need to evaluate current procedures to see how they add to the amount of time it takes to complete a case,” said Perkowsky. 

Caseworkers are also seeking transparency between CPS and the public to educate the public on potential dangers that child protective workers face. 

“There are no safety measures in place for us,” said Perkowsky. “Under a year ago, a supervisor was assaulted by someone that had a history of assault.” 

Our union is fighting to make working conditions safer for workers who are often in the field meeting with children and families. 

“CSEA is still in the process of grieving to get caseworkers the criminal histories and background of the homes they’ll be visiting,” said Perkowsky. “Right now, we’re going in blindly, with very little information, by ourselves.” 

Members fear that they will be featured in media reports due to unrealistic expectations and very little support. As it is, caseworkers are made to feel that any misstep in a case falls solely on them as opposed to considering the many other people involved in a CPS case. 

“We are two counties [Nassau and Suffolk] that are going in very different directions,” said Perkowsky. 

— Wendi Bowie 


About Author

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

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