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Caseworkers brief legislators on challenges, workforce shortage

Caseworkers brief legislators on challenges, workforce shortage

Legislators and their aides heard directly from caseworkers and their supervisors today during a briefing sponsored by PCSAO and supported by Casey Family Programs.

Today’s luncheon briefing, the third this year, focused on “A Day in the Life of a Child Protection Caseworker” and featured PCSAO’s video of the same title. The panel included Stacy Cox and Christina Isenbarger of Champaign County Job and Family Services and Keisha Savage and Danielle Stucke of Franklin County Children Services.

They discussed high caseloads, personal risk and safety, secondary trauma, long hours, and poor retention among front-line staff in their agencies. High turnover was mentioned as a constant challenge as too many caseworkers leave after only six months on the job, even though a caseworker needs about two years of experience to be considered “seasoned.” Since the economy began to recover, caseworkers are moving on to jobs that pay more and demand less. These days, panelists said, a worker is considered a “veteran” if she or he has been on staff for a year. PCSAO Executive Director Angela Sausser announced that the association is launching a workforce initiative to address the crisis.

Rising caseloads due to Ohio’s opiate epidemic and significant travel time due to out-of-county placements, particularly in rural areas, were also cited as challenges. Rather than giving each case the necessary time and attention based on its complexity, PCSAO’s ongoing workload study (see Functional Job Analysis and Caseload Update) suggests a dynamic system view of child welfare, similar to an emergency room triage or law enforcement detective unit. The study shows that in any given month, caseworkers spend 75 percent of their time on only 35 percent of their caseload, meaning that low-demand cases receive less and less time when caseloads run high.

At the close of the briefing, PCSAO recommended that legislators and their staff visit local children services agencies, arrange to ride along with workers as they investigate cases or work with families, and begin to see caseworkers as the first responders that they are, similar to law enforcement.