Survey: DCF social workers overwhelmed by caseloads

20 or more caseloads considered crisis level

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)– Massachusetts’ child welfare system has taken a lot of hits over the last few years and is now being criticized by its own staff.

Now, a report released Tuesday highlights many of the major issues DCF social workers face on a daily basis.

This report surveyed 1,500 Department of Children and Families workers following the disappearance and death of a 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, the Fitchburg boy whose family was being monitored by the department when we disappeared.

The workers surveyed in the report claim to suffer from low morale, poor working conditions and heavy caseloads, which the social workers said is made even worse by the often complexity of cases.

Ivette Hernandez, a DCF social working in Springfield, told 22News it’s getting close to impossible for use to be able to sit down each family, asses each child’s needs, and living situation in way that makes them feel comfortable leaving the child there.

“I go home thinking who did I miss, who am I supposed to call, is tht kid okay, are they eating, you know what’s happening?” Hernandez said.

Hernandez says she has roughly 22-23 families she is currently monitoring.

The national standard set by the Child Welfare League of America as a safe caseload level is 15 families, or caseloads, per one social worker.

Hernandez told 22News social workers are supposed to be meeting with the teachers, parents, and doctors of each child each month and when each caseload involves multiple families she could meet with hundreds of key players on a monthly basis.

The latest DCF caseload data shows that social workers in Springfield currently have the heaviest caseload ratio in the entire state of Massachusetts.

As of Dec. 2014, there were 59 Springfield social workers that had 20 or more caseloads each month.

The Child Welfare League of America labels 20 or more caseloads a crisis level.

In all of Western Massachusetts there are more than 300 social workers currently at that crisis level, which is an increase of roughly 200 compared to the same month one year earlier.

The secretary of Health and Human Services, who oversees the agency, says changes are already being made based on the survey findings, but what those changes are has not been specified.

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