Social workers’ high caseloads stand in way of agency’s mission

Re State leaving more children in potentially dangerous homes” (Page A1, Aug. 11): As a former social worker and supervisor for the Department of Children and Families, I can appreciate the task that Peter Schworm and Sean P. Murphy had in attempting to explain the complex decision-making that is required daily of the department. Although the department’s dysfunction could be attributed to many factors, there was one predominant concern that stuck with me during my 20 years there: its longstanding failure to address social workers’ high caseloads, which increase poor decision-making and thwart the ability to maintain reasonable contact with the families. An uninformed decision can be a harmful one, and for the department there is no Hippocratic oath.

What is more frustrating is that there is money in the agency budget to pay for more social workers. The department is top-heavy with overpaid bureaucrats and specialists who do not carry cases. In addition, millions of dollars are doled out each year to pay for Family Networks, a contract with various private social service agencies that provide case coordinators who don’t carry cases and hold ambiguous job descriptions.

A former co-worker once said: “We do two things wrong at DCF — we take children out of their home, and we leave them there.” Given the difficult nature of such a job, does it not make sense to allow for a manageable caseload for those who do the front-line work?

Peter DeSimone