Once again, the elephant in the room with the state Department of Children and Families is the high caseload each social worker carries. The upshot is that the number remains higher than recommended federal standards despite the hiring of more than 300 new social workers.
December’s DCF-focused dustup between state Auditor Suzanne Bump and Gov. Charlie Baker, a Democrat and Republican respectively, and both running for re-election, was not about caseload size. It had more to do with the contents of Bump’s audit of the agency and Baker’s objections that it was sloppy, reliant on old data and unfair to the social workers.
The audit produced four findings:
- DCF does not effectively identify and investigate all occurrences of serious bodily injury to children in its care.
- DCF does not report all critical incidents affecting children in its care to the Office of the
Child Advocate (OCA).
- DCF does not report incidents of abuse, neglect, and/or sexual abuse of children in its care to district attorneys’ (DAs’) offices for investigation whenever it is required to do so.
- DCF does not complete its fatality investigation reports and submit them to OCA within the established timeframe.
The governor’s approach was notably unlike the standard political mea culpa that follows criticism of the child protection agency. Instead of a meek promise to do better and some targeted firings, Baker fired back at Bump.