66% of social workers in child protection services are in training or are entry-level, committee finds | New

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Another area reporting a shortage of employees is in social workers for the Department of Community Services, according to testimony presented to a legislative committee on Wednesday, which led lawmakers to voice concerns.

Commissioner Marta Miranda-Straub and Deputy Commissioner Lesa Dennis of DCBS, the state agency that oversees child protection services, told the Child Protection Oversight and Advisory Committee that the number of admissions to child welfare services has risen to 112,000 since October 2020, a record high number of children in state care.

Staff issues have also worsened, they said, with nearly 400 cases and social workers leaving the department since the start of the year, with the result that 66% of DCBS social workers are either still in training, be considered as entry-level employees. .

This has led to an increase in the number of average monthly cases exceeding what is allowed by state law and national averages. Reports show that social workers are treating 26 ongoing cases and between 70 and 80 cases in Jefferson and Fayette counties.

“Right now, DCBS’s ability to serve the children of Kentucky is in complete freefall,” said Rep. David Meade, R-Stanford and the panel co-chair. “Kentucky was already leading the country in reported cases of child abuse and neglect before the pandemic, and those numbers continue to skyrocket. This is worrying when you consider that higher workloads lead to more children who are not taken care of and who suffer in dangerous or life-threatening situations. “

During the committee meeting, DCBS officials explained that the workforce problem stems from low wages and suggested increased funding to address staff shortages. Meade explained that the legislature had previously worked to increase the wages of social workers, but the administration feared the proposed increases would target those who work directly with children.

“These increases were discussed in our meetings and one thing we heard from DCBS is that they were focused on the pay gap and they didn’t want social workers to earn more than supervisors,” Meade added. . “We understand that, but maybe with the level of stress these people are facing, we need to consider paying frontline workers more. Maybe the pay gap isn’t what we need to look at right now, maybe we need to focus on the areas where we need workers. “


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