The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 1, 2013

Children need to remain a priority

Daily Item

---- — Certain jobs lend themselves to a quick, natural turnover as people continue their march toward the American Dream. You would hope, however, that caseworker for Children and Youth would not be one of them.

Social work, and in particular casework within Children and Youth services, is not for the faint of heart. It is marked with long hours, modest pay, potential for considerable emotional stress and huge responsibility.

These are incredibly important jobs done by incredibly people. They may not be the first line of defense for children, but they are not too far behind. When Northumberland County commissioner Vinny Clausi says "we can't have anything affect the children of this county. … If something would happen to one of those children, it would be with me forever," he could not be more right.

So it is troubling to learn that Children and Youth in Northumberland County has a turnover rate of about 25 percent. One out of every four workers leaves the post -- creating 15 vacancies every year.

This turnover not only affects the caseworkers who remain, who receive and additional pile of cases until the staffer is replaced, but affects the families much more.

These are jobs where relationships mean everything. These families need stability and often it is the familiar face of a caseworker who can provide it.

It is already difficult enough for some of these families to trust Children and Youth because of the natural barrier created when it comes to protecting your own family. When they see a different face, or hear a different voice, each time they need a response, the families can once again hide behind that barrier.

The turnover is costly on many levels. Clausi estimates it costs $150,000 to $180,000 to train many of these staffers who leave, which means more money will be needed to train the next group. In addition to the monetary costs, there is a personnel impact when vacancies lead to overworked staff members trying to balance too many cases.

Now is the time to tackle this problem and it is good to see the commissioners trying to stay in front of it as much as possible. No doubt the commissioners have plenty on their plates already. From the prison woes to budget constraints, it is imperative that the Valley's children always remain a priority.