Social service workers lose 92 cases of possible child abuse

AP News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2015 3:29 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — More than 90 cases involving possible child abuse or neglect in Northern Kentucky have been lost, with some languishing for months before being recently discovered, state social service officials said.

The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1LfkpcF ) reported Monday officials from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services have been scrambling to assign 92 cases that were found in the Boone County office earlier this year, according to the records. The cases included babies born with drugs in their system, children living with heroin addicts — one in a home where an adult overdosed — and children exposed to violence, firearms and other hazardous situations.

Under Kentucky law, if average caseloads per worker rise above 25 for more than 90 days, the cabinet is required to report that to the governor and the legislature. National accreditation standards limit caseloads to 18 per worker.

Department commissioner Teresa James says she has been trying to recruit workers, reduce caseloads and improve working conditions, but the relatively low pay — social workers start at about $32,000 a year — and stressful work make it difficult.

"The job is demanding," she said. "This is hard work."

Some workers say that wasn't why they left. They cited unrealistic demands of supervisors and lack of support as they struggled to keep families together and protect children from harm.

Traci Coleman, who worked as a social worker in Fayette County for 10 years before she abruptly quit in March, said it was her growing belief that constant churn of cases and workers, endless paperwork and pressure to meet deadlines were not helping troubled families the agency is supposed to serve.

"They turn a blind eye until a worker goes on an extended sick leave — or quits," said Coleman, who now works in banking. "I'm just glad to be away from it."