Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Report: Child Welfare Caseworkers Overworked, Underpaid - Putting Kids at Risk

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Report: Child Welfare Caseworkers Overworked, Underpaid - Putting Kids at Risk

Article excerpt

County Children and Youth Services caseworkers are not adequately trained, are burdened by overwhelming caseloads and paperwork, and earn "a remarkably low salary given the educational requirements, daily work complexity and potentially dangerous components of the job," according to a report Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released Thursday examining county child welfare systems.

Those factors cause high caseworker turnover, and further impact the ability of caseworkers to adequately protect kids, Mr. DePasquale said Thursday.

The 80-page report looked at Allegheny, Bucks, Cambria, Centre, Crawford, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Luzerne, Monroe, Philadelphia, and York counties, a range of urban, suburban and rural locations. Each of the state's 67 counties administer their own children and youth services agency, with state oversight.

The report recommends the Department of Human Services and update all job descriptions, which in the instance of some caseworker positions have not been updated in more than 20 years; reduce certain paperwork requirements; appoint an independent child protection ombudsman, who could recommend systemic improvements; encourage counties to hire more clerical aides to assist with paperwork and increase salaries where possible.

The average starting salary for a new caseworker in the 13 counties was $30,018.

The turnover rate for Allegheny County caseworkers is 15 percent and the current average salary for an Allegheny County children, youth and families caseworker is $37,211, according to a spokeswoman.

The report also recommends DHS examine the predictive risk modeling used in Allegheny County to determine its usefulness in other counties. The Allegheny Family Screening tool is a computer tool that aims to help child protection staff make better decisions and focus on the most at-risk kids. …

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