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Child Protective Services At The Crossroads

    Subject of Investigation

    The Child Protective Services Division of the Sacramento County Health and Human Services provides programs and activities for abused, neglected, and exploited children and their parents.

    Reason for Investigation

    In a Special Report, the 1998-1999 Grand Jury recommended that the County Executive form a task force to address the issues of proper staffing and employee retention within Child Protective Services (CPS). The recommended task force was composed of representatives from Department of Health and Human Services, Human Resources Agency, Civil Service Commission, Public Works Agency, General Services Department and the County Executive's Office. The focus of the 1999-2000 Grand Jury investigation was to review the progress report from the task force and to inquire whether CPS staffing and equipment needs were being met.

    Procedures

    This Grand Jury interviewed social worker staff and administrators, and reviewed the findings and recommendations of the Sacramento County Executive's Task Force on CPS that were presented to the board of Supervisors in December 1999.

    Findings

    As a result of the 1998-1999 Grand Jury investigation and the County Executive's Task Force, there has been slow and steady change within CPS. Part of the County Executive's Task Force findings are summarized below.

    Recruitment and retention in CPS social worker positions has been a problem. Between October 1998 and September 1999, 147 social workers were hired; however, 99 left, leaving a net gain of only 48 workers. Experienced social workers generally had unmanageably high caseloads while the trainees were assigned fewer cases during training. The Task Force decided to place their priority on achieving manageable caseloads by increasing and retaining staff.

    The following recruitment steps were taken:

      · Create a full-time recruitment position.
      · Recruit over the Internet.
      · Permit CPS to make job offers to students graduating with a Masters Degree in social work prior to their graduation.
      · Administer the Human Resources Agency examinations for social workers every 18 months (minimally) rather than every 36 months.

    In order to retain the staff that are hired, the County has taken the following actions:

      · Since July 1997, an additional 232 staff positions to provide support for social workers have been approved.
      · Effective August 15, 1999, all Emergency Response and Family Maintenance and Reunification staff were given a 2.5% pay differential.
      · The Division continues to develop a process to ensure that the new employees have the necessary workspace and equipment for their jobs, such as computers and cell phones, on the day they begin work.
      · A CPS Public Information Officer position has been created. A primary function of this position will be to inform the public of the job being done by social workers in CPS.
      · In an ongoing project, confidential employee surveys are being sent to staff to determine why employees leave.

In November 1999, this Grand Jury interviewed social workers in the Emergency Response Section of Child Protective Services. Although there were some new offices and equipment, the Grand Jury found that the newer workers are still having difficulties obtaining the equipment necessary to do their jobs. The more experienced social workers tend to be more optimistic about future improvement in caseloads than are the newer hires.

    The Division Manager of CPS was interviewed in February 2000 to obtain updated information on the implementation of the County Task Force's recommendations. The information is presented in the following table, which clearly indicates that hiring efforts have improved continuously over the last year.

    A pay differential of 2.5% in 1999, in addition to 7.5% in 1998 has helped attract and retain social workers in the Emergency Response Section. Additionally Sacramento County currently is hiring beginning workers with either a BA or MSW at the 5th step of the pay scale. This places these workers at the mid-range of wages paid in surrounding counties. Without this expedient in hiring, the data show that Sacramento County CPS workers would be at the bottom of the pay scale compared to those other counties.

    Besides improvements in salaries, there are new offices for CPS, a better utilization of automobiles and more computers. Additionally a request for four hundred new computers to replace old ones has been made. The recommendations of both the 1998-1999 Grand Jury and the County Executive's Task Force have resulted in improvement being made in all areas of CPS operations. More improvement, however, still needs to be made.

    Recommendations

    1. The Division Manager of Child Protective Services shall continue to submit to the Sacramento County Grand Jury, monthly statistics regarding Child Protective Services staffing, vacancies and caseloads.

    2. The Health and Human Services Department and the Human Resources Agency shall perform the analysis required to determine Bachelor's and Master's degree-level social workers salaries that will allow the county to be competitive with surrounding counties in the hiring and retention of social workers in Child Protective Services.

    3. The Health and Human Services Department shall report to the Grand Jury on the status of the delivery and installation of the requested 400 new computers.
    4. The Grand Jury encourages the county to continue to improve Child Protective Services. This includes recruitment, hiring and office and equipment upgrades.

    Response Required

    The Penal Code requires that responses to all of the recommendations contained in this Report be submitted to the Presiding Judge of the Sacramento Superior Court by September 30, 2000, from:

      · Health and Human Services Department
      · Human Resources Agency

1999/2000 Sacramento County Grand Jury - Final Report (Internet Version) June 30, 2000

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