South Florida’s WPTV and The Palm Beach Post investigate how large caseloads, high turnover, low pay, voluminous paperwork, and pressure to meet performance goals are preventing the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) ability to keep children safe.
Typically, it is recommended that Child Protection Investigators (CPIs) handle no more than 15 open cases per month to do their job efficiently.
Large caseloads compound several struggles that investigators face every day: workers are inundated with paperwork because of their requirements for handling cases (e.g., document conversations with all collaterals within 60 days of receiving the case), which limits the time they can spend with families to truly investigate and make an informed, confident decision about a specific situation.
These two quotes from investigators really stood out to me as I reviewed this article:
- “When you have a caseload of 20-25-30-35, you are bound to not just fail, but the families you are charged with overseeing and helping are going to fail.”
- “The main focus, aside from keeping children safe, is making sure you are hitting all your targets. It becomes more about numbers and statistics than ensuring a child is safe."
What’s most concerning though is that these problems aren’t limited to just four counties in Florida. We’ve heard and read about similar concerns and challenges at child welfare and protective services agencies across the country, too.
So how can we all work together to solve the problem? Give workers with the right tools at the right time to do their jobs—quickly AND effectively. Empower workers to make well-informed decisions by giving them access to critical information, connections, and case history.
In the words of DCF Secretary Mike Carroll, while "he can't control the volume of work" that comes in, he "can try and control how they do the work."