The list of jobs more difficult and thankless than that of a caseworker for Children and Youth Services is quite short. The good days are rare. The bad days can be really bad.
There are numerous reasons, ranging from sleepless nights and long hours to difficult and heart-wrenching decisions to remove a child from a home, based on legal precedent and the law. A recent review of child protection caseworkers by State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in York County has spurred him to expand the review of the system on a limited scale — at least in terms of numbers. We hope it has wide-ranging implications.
Following an audit of York County, DePasquale wants to see how consistent the issues found there are with the rest of the commonwealth. We trust the stories will be similar.
“Unfortunately, our audits have increasingly found high staff turnover and heavy caseloads affecting the care that Children and Youth Services caseworkers can provide across the commonwealth,” DePasquale said.
DePasquale announced his office will review processes in 13 of the state’s 67 counties following an initial audit of York County. While none of the Valley’s four counties are on the list — the nearest is Dauphin County — it is unquestionable child protection caseworkers locally face similar issues daily.
Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Center for Children’s Justice, said agencies across the state, regardless of location, population, demographics and workforce all attempt to overcome the same challenges. “This is systemic,” she said.
The auditor general’s review will focus on several key issues: Examining the job stresses for caseworkers; evaluating the impact of high turnover rates and minimal training; and eventually offering recommendations so these agencies can improve the quality of care at-risk children receive.
These issues were amplified in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, which led to the creation of the statewide Childline reporting hotline, clarification of mandatory reporters and additional layers of background checks. Childline received nearly 41,000 reports in 2015, a 39 percent increase in one year.
We expect DePasquale’s review to reveal some troublesome data. How this data is later utilized to create necessary transitions and fixes will be as important as the review itself.