Social Work Turns Academic State Counselors Required to Take Competency Test

Article excerpt

Esther Moss is stressed about the test.

Moss is one of 2,772 state child protective services workers

who -- starting today -- have to take an unprecedented new

competency test.

It is a three-hour, 100-question, multiple-choice,

use-a-No.-2-pencil exam designed to make sure the Florida

Department of Children and Families workers who handle child

abuse and neglect cases know what they're doing.

Those who get an 80 percent or better will get a new job

title and a 5 percent pay raise. Those scoring lower may end up

losing their current jobs.

And so Moss, 53, is stressed.

"I have a lot of anxiety," she said during an interview in

her office this week.

There are binders and binders full of rules, laws and

policies, and every year some are updated or changed. Moss says

she knows how to do her job, but can she answer every policy

question that might come up?

"A lot of anxiety," she repeated.

Why the test? For years, the competency of the state's child

protective services workers has been criticized, usually in the

wake of headline-grabbing incidents which ended with the serious

injury or death of an abused child whom the state was supposed

to be watching over.

"I think there was general agreement that we needed to

improve the competency level for that job classification," said

state Sen. Bill Bankhead, RPonte Vedra Beach, who sits on the

Senate subcommittee that handles social services appropriations.

State officials came up with a plan to extend the training of

new protective services workers and create new competency

testing that involves both a written test and a "field test," in

which the workers are to be observed doing their job.

Tied to that was a proposal for a pay increase, including a 5

percent boost when the written test was passed and another 5

percent when they passed the field test.

The testing plan got a green light in the spring when the

Legislature appropriated a total of $6.5 million in state and

federal money for the development of the written test and the

first round of pay raises. …