Child Protective Services has seen a decline in the average caseloads per worker for the first time in three years.
The Erie County Department of Social Services' (ECDSS) reported Monday that the average child protective worker caseload has dipped below fifteen, the state-recommended maximum, for the first time since September 2013.
According to ECDSS, two-thirds of case workers have 15 cases or less and 95% have 25 cases or less.
"Although our Child Protective Unit still has work to do, we have reached a critical benchmark by returning to an average caseload that is below the state-recommended maximum," said Department of Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger. "I want to commend our front-line employees for their hard work and tenacious efforts. I also want to credit our dedicated administrative team for putting together a smart plan to reduce caseloads, and following that plan despite any criticism or setbacks."
The number of child protective investigations has dropped from a high of almost 5000 down to 1,577 at the end of August.
An audit by the New York State Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) in the fall of 2013 triggered changes in the Child Protective Unit, causing a steady drop in caseloads until June 2014 after County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested and received legislature approval for a plan to increase the Child Protective Unit with three new CPS teams and a new team of employees with law enforcement experience.
The decrease in caseload size has also triggered an increase in the quality of casework being performed by child protective workers. For example, the percentage of PCS cases with credible evidence found supporting allegations has risen from about 30% in 2013 to almost 35% today. This is credited to an increase in more robust investigations and an enhanced partnerships with community stakeholders.
"As a result of more investigations uncovering abuse and neglect, these families are now receiving the assistance they may not have received otherwise," said Commissioner Dirschberger. "We expect this will ultimately help families as we can address the issues causing their families' hardship. Our Department will continue to identify ways to strengthen our investigations so we can help families with needs."