Social workers picket for more help, fewer cases - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Social workers picket for more help, fewer cases

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Nicole Gerber

ngerber@abc6.com

@nicolegerber

NEW BEDFORD - They walked out chanting "caseloads, caseloads they're too high, reduce them now so kids don't die!"

Dozens of social workers in New Bedford took their lunch hour outside, picketing in front of their office at the Department of Children and Families.

They're Demanding more hires to combat growing caseloads.

"It's a crisis level caseload that we're dealing with, and that essentially the bottom line is it puts children at risk," said  Julie Cardoza-Pietruszka, a southeast region VP for DCF.

Everyone working at the New Bedford office participated some way in the picket line but those with essential functions stayed inside working, because organizers say their main focus is still the families.

The New Bedford DCF has the highest number of cases per worker, with many juggling more than 25 families.

They want no more than 15.

With nearly 2 thousand cases total, the highest number the office has seen in the last 3 years, staffing has stayed about the same... with about 90 full–time positions.

 "They really want to help these children they get very invested in these families and to not be able to do what they need to do to be able to take care of them stresses them out to the point where we've had people walk out with another job," said Many Frieburger, a supervisor.

In a statement the Massachusetts DCF said "more than 120 social workers and staff have been hired since January 1 and governor Patrick's budget calls for an investment in more than 175 new social workers and staff to be added to DCF's workforce going forward..."

But workers say this was their last ditch effort to get through to their administration.

"We can't deal with caseloads that high for any length of time without something really bad happening and everyone's afraid of that.... And we really need help at this point," said Frieburger.

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