HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Department of Children and Families has been under intense scrutiny after the death of a young boy under their supervision.
22News discovered how social workers believe this problem can be solved. They say it’s simply by hiring more qualified and trained social workers.
Department of Children and Families Social Workers deal with reports of child abuse and neglect. About 50 social workers picketed outside the Holyoke D.C.F. office. Social workers say the state promised they would not have to handle more than 15 cases at a time, but in some cases, they are handling nearly twice that many.
“We’re responding to emergencies, putting out fires is essentially what we’re doing what we really want to be doing is working in-depth with the families and getting to know their needs,” said Holyoke D.C.F. social worker Stefanie Shippee.
These social workers were protesting because they say they are taking care of too many children.
“When we’re so overloaded, we’re leaving vulnerable children at risk,” said Svea Letendre, Holyoke D.C.F. social worker.
Children like five year old Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg who was under DCF supervision when he disappared last Fall. He was found dead inside a suitcase in April.
Union representatives told 22News the state needs to hire more than 380 social workers and 40 supervisors.
That would cost the state $10 million dollars more than what’s been approved in their budget.
“We’ve got 90 more than we had in January that would tell me that we’re increasing the number of social workers not decreasing,” said Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz.
The state has hired new case workers, but many have also retired, so they are no where near where they need to be to meet that 15- caseload- to- one social worker standard.
“It only takes one missed case for a tragedy to occur,” said Letendre.