Former DCF workers say high case loads hurt kids

Posted at 9:11 PM, Feb 10, 2016

Their job is to protect children who are victims of abuse and neglect.


Yet, former DCF workers who spoke to ABC Action News on the condition of anonymity said the very system meant to support and speak up for children is failing them by not giving workers a reasonable workload. 


“We’re supposed to have 12 cases running at all times, but we’re doing 24, 30, 40 sometimes,” said one of the former workers who asked not to be identified. 


Several former Florida Department of Children and Families employees who spoke to ABC Action News Wednesday said they were forced from their jobs after complaining about increasing demands and unmanageable workloads. 


“It comes down to the work being unmanageable and impossible," one of the former DCF employees said. "You cannot complete your goals.” 


The cases those former workers are talking about equates to children in need. ABC Action News was told there aren’t enough people to protect the children, because worker turnover is high.


According to DCF’s annual report released Oct. 1, the turnover rate in the SunCoast region, which covers Tampa to Naples, is the largest in the state.


From 2013 to 2014 the turnover rate was 50%. From 2014 to 2015 the turnover rate was 47%.


With cases being neglected because of high turnover, the former workers said that is how children slip through the cracks. They said high profile cases such as Janiya Thomas and baby Chance Walsh could have been avoided if workers would have been able to do their jobs properly. 


One former worker said she put in more than $15,000 worth of overtime last year, working to meet the demand. That was despite the efforts of supervisors to try to limit overtime.


A former workers said it was often implied the work needed to be done, but overtime was not okay.


“The understood information that comes from that is I’m supposed to finish my work on my time and not on paid time, and I refuse to do that. Its breaking the law. 


Those former workers said although they choose to resign, they are worried about the children who won’t be protected if the current employees can’t do their jobs properly. 


DCF released this statement in response. 


"DCF is unwavering in its mission to protect Florida’s most vulnerable.


The new child welfare practice model has moved child protective investigations from focusing on a single incident to focusing on the full picture of the family dynamic – viewing the ‘motion picture’ of the family rather than a ‘snapshot’ of what was called into the Florida Abuse Hotline.


DCF is working to increase staff retention and ensure a stable and professional workforce. To that end, turnover, caseload, and overtime are carefully monitored and managed in every region across the state.


With the implementation of the improved practice model and a commitment to a high quality workforce, DCF is absolutely dedicated to doing this work better. Recent investments in the child welfare system include funding for more than 245 new CPIs and supervisors, and case management enhancement and professionalism. Additionally, this year the Governor is recommending nearly $15 million for an additional 272 case managers in Florida.


It is imperative to note that the child protective investigations are solely conducted by the sheriff’s offices in Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties."