Wisconsin Counties magazine explores how the opioid epidemic is impacting the state's already fragile child welfare system, which one agency director referred to as a “sinking ship.” The article is a powerful reminder that frontline workers and supervisors need more support than ever before.
Like many states, Wisconsin’s child welfare system has felt the crushing impact of the opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, Wisconsin Counties magazine published an in-depth analysis of the dire situation, such as:
- The number of children in out-of-home care increased 39% from 2012 through the first quarter of 2018, leading to a steep rise in counties’ out-of-home care costs: $14.3 million from 2013 to 2017, to be exact.
- On top of this, many workers are carrying double the standard caseload, contributing to higher turnover while creating additional safety and liability concerns.
The article also discusses how Wisconsin hopes to stabilize the system, so it can better protect child victims of the epidemic today, plus formulate long-term strategies to be more proactive in the future.
For me, Wisconsin’s story is an important reminder for all states: no matter what’s causing roadblocks—whether it’s the impact of opioids (or a future epidemic), challenges associated with the introduction of new policies like Families First Prevention Services Act, or anything else—we must do better to give workers the time and tools they need to do their jobs and keep kids safe. We have to take advantage of investments being made in prevention efforts and giving workers as much time with families as possible.
Vicki Tylka, director of Marathon County Department of Social Services, summarizes it best in a personal reflection included in the article:
“Child protective services social workers are dedicated to the children in the community like no other professional. They’re out there day after day, keeping kids safe, despite the long hours they put in and the sadness and stress they confront and endure on a daily basis. The supervisors who support them are heroes as well. It is time we do the right thing and properly resource a system that is crucial to the safety and well-being of our families.”