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DCYF cites high caseloads, looks at adding 24/7 staffing

Monitor staff
Last modified: 2/27/2016 12:55:01 AM
Heavy workloads and high staff turnover at the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families are impacting the agency’s ability to keep children safe, according to a recent report from the division.

The topic will likely be featured prominently as the Commission to Review Child Abuse Fatalities, composed of lawmakers, state officials and advocates weighs whether to expand the agency’s staffing from eight-hour days to 24/7 coverage.

Division officials on Monday will present a proposal to the commission to provide around-the-clock staffing at child protective services, which is currently open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Weekend and nighttime complaints are generally covered by local police.

Child protective services has come under renewed scrutiny following the death of two toddlers in the last year and a half. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan called for an independent review of the division in October and hopes to present a contract to the Executive Council at the March 9 meeting, her office said.

Law enforcement officials have called for additional staffing at the division.

DCYF released an around-the-clock staffing plan to the commission in January that proposed hiring roughly 50 new employees at an estimated cost of $4 million per year. But it was pulled back by the Department of Health and Human Services, which plans to release a new proposal Monday, according to the department.

The January report revealed high turnover at the division – which has 176 child protection service field workers, saying it reached roughly 50 percent in the last two years. At the same time, the report said, reports of alleged abuse and neglect accepted by the division have been on the rise. Between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015, a typical case worker was assigned between 125 to 186 new investigations.

“High turnover has significant impact on the agency’s ability to effectively manage the work and caseload, and ultimately sustain best outcomes for children and families,” said the report, written by DCYF Director Lorraine Bartlett. “High caseloads and workloads impact child safety and do not allow time for in-depth investigation, adequate preparation for legal action, analytical thinking and consultation with experts or colleagues.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)


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