House Oversight Committee hears update on DCYF progress
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) - The house oversight committee came back from its summer recess Thursday night to see what progress, if any, has been made by the troubled DCYF.
Jennifer Griffith with the Office of the Child Advocate told them some areas have improved since a 9-year-old girl died in foster care in January, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
The biggest issue out of the meeting - the number of caseloads for social workers in Rhode Island is far too high.
Thursday night's meeting comes one day after DCYF Director Trista Piccola announced she would be adding 23 new hires to the department in the hopes that will lighten some of the load.
That move not thrilling law makers Thursday night, who said they asked Director Piccola back in June if she needed more staff.
"What has changed between and yesterday, the night before an oversight meeting where now you need $2 millon," asked Representative Pat Serpa. "Were you wrong in June?"
Piccola, who announced last month she's resigning, says they'll be bringing on 17 social case workers, three front–line supervisors, and three child support technicians.
"I think it's a fair criticism to say 'What were you waiting for, why didn't you sit here and say that?'"responded Piccola.
Griffith told the committee tonight that she wouldn't fight 50 new hires.
"They need to be at a level that's manageable, not going into it Monday morning knowing, 'I can't get through this week,'" Griffith told the committee.
According to union reps, their average case load is between 19–21, while the national average is 14.
"Social workers are not going to feel a difference between 19.2 and 18.6 as an average caseload," said Union President Kathy McElroy. "It's just not – there's no relief there."
The office of the child advocate confirmed the department has improved on creating consistency in filing reports, but still needs work in many other areas.
Amelia, a teen in foster care, made a personal plea to lawmakers to act quickly so more tragedies don't happen.
"That could be me. That could be any foster youth out there who can lose their life, who can never get the chance to walk down the stage to graduate, to ever succeed because her life was cut too short."
Right now union reps say it's unclear what impact the new hires will have on caseloads.
Griffith says the department should hire enough people to bring the number of cases down to between 12 and 14 per worker.