Report recommends DCYF add 35 child protection workers

Monitor staff
Published: 10/12/2016 7:54:53 PM

An independent report recommends the state bring on an additional 35 child protection workers – more than the current 85 – to help manage increasing reports of abuse and neglect and reduce the backlog of open assessments.

The 11-page report, issued Wednesday, is an interim review from the Center for the Support of Families. The organization was contracted by the state earlier this year to examine practices at the Division for Children, Youth and Families, which came under scrutiny in wake of several child fatalities. The Department of Health and Human Services requested the initial report to help craft its next agency budget request, due this fall. The final report is expected to come out in November.

Early findings show DCYF did not close most child assessments within the required 60-day window, creating a large backlog of open cases. Leaving cases open for an extended period of time is a liability, the report said, because it suggests “active work is being done on assessments, when in fact data show weeks and months go by with little or no activity.” Just 21 percent of assessments reviewed in the sample were completed within the 60-day timeframe.

The report found DCYF doesn’t have enough staff to keep up with reports of child mistreatment.

While national standards recommend a social worker have no more than 12 active assessments at one time, DCYF workers interviewed for the report said they were assigned, on average, 15 new cases a month. The average monthly caseload was 54, the report found.

Heavy workloads were named as the leading cause of high staff turnover and overdue assessments.

The report found 90 assessment workers are needed to keep up with the volume of incoming child abuse reports, far above the current number. The division has 84 assessment positions, but on average, roughly 28 were vacant each month between December 2015 and July 2016, further reducing the number of available staff.

“Assessment staff are among the most critical in the State for ensuring the health and safety of New Hampshire’s most vulnerable children,” the report said. “And they cannot carry out that mission if their own needs for well-being are unmet.”

HHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said in a release he has already reallocated 22 positions to DCYF.

The department has struggled in recent months to meet a plan 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. No bidders responded to a state request to staff a DCYF hotline 24/7. The proposal was reissued by the state last week, according to spokesman Jake Leon.

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


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