BOSTON (WWLP) – Deep budget cuts could be to blame for the Department of Children and Families’ poor performance this year. 22News spoke with advocate groups who say a full $100 million needs to be restored to keep state-supervised children safe.
The Department of Children and Families is in charge of protecting more than 40,000 children from abuse and neglect in the state, and it is not a job just anyone can do.
“Being a social worker is the type of job, you truly have to have compassion and a heart and it takes a certain type of individual to work with these families and these kids and do it adequately,” said Yvonne Addo-Piper of the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corp.
Steep budget cuts over the past five years has resulted in a series of internal problems, putting children at risk and DCF under brutal scrutiny.
“We truly believe that many of the issues facing the Department of Children and Families and the unfortunate events of the last year are the direct result of budget cuts to the agency,” said Maria Mossaides of the Children’s League of Massachusetts.
The national standard of caseloads is 14 to 15 families per front line worker. In Massachusetts, social workers could see more than double.
“We have caseloads, 25, 30, 35, some as high as 40 families per worker. You just cannot do the work safely with that type of caseload. It’s really putting kids at risk,” said Peter MacKinnon of the Service Employees International Union.
The Children’s League of Massachusetts wants to see $100 million restored to DCF beginning in July. $17 million would go directly to hiring more workers to reduce the heavy caseloads. The league also wants to increase training and make sure current funding would go towards new hires and not towards administrative paychecks.
The Massachusetts House Budget Committee proposed almost $13 million towards hiring 245 full-time social workers, just four million short of the League’s request. A finalized budget will be due at the end of June.