Former DCFS employee speaks out about child welfare audit - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Former DCFS employee speaks out about child welfare audit

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LOUISIANA - We recently brought you the details of a legislative audit of child welfare services under the Department of Children and Family Services in Louisiana. After reviewing the recommendations, and seeing the disturbing problems noted, we sat down with a woman who worked for DCFS for 30 years.

“We're the ones who decided 'do your kids stay in your home or do we take it'? Is your child in a life-threatening situation, or not? Most people aren't going to ever want to make that decision.” But there is a rare breed - as Marsha McCall calls it - who do. For 30 years, McCall made those decisions, retiring in 2011 as the Program Operations Manager over investigations in Caddo Parish. She says it's still where her heart is, but it got too difficult to be a part of.

“My goal was to make sure children were safe, families were intact when they could be, put back together when they could be, but also that the staff was taken care of.” Because the staffs are people working 12 hour days or more, sometimes weekends, McCall says, but still falling behind on the high caseloads to help abused children. And there was nothing she could do about it. “When they have to go out and do that over and over and over again, and no time for their family and no time to take off, then they start suffering physical problems, stress related problems, then they quit, and you lose all your good staff. And then what you have is a bunch of brand new workers that you can pay less, because they're brand new, but they don't know what they're doing, and then you throw them out there and the cycle starts all over.”

The legislative audit highlights these sentiments from surveyed caseworkers - pointing out that their caseloads are going up - while caseworker numbers are going down, with a high turnover rate. According to the Child Welfare League of America, CPI caseworkers should have 12 cases per month - but McCall says current caseworkers she's in contact with are taking on 25-35 cases. “I really honestly have seen, even before I left, where workers will take a few days off, or have a court case that lasted 3 to 4 days, when they get back, there's 5, 6, 7 new cases. Some of those could've been too old already, but there isn't anybody else to give them to.”

Funding to DCFS has diminished significantly over the years - and McCall says that speaks volumes about the Jindal administration. “When this administration got started cutting, chopping, and changing things, it became way less about protecting children and helping families, than it did how you look on paper.”

McCall also detailed for us the changes to management in recent years. She says several separate programs, like Child Protective Services, used to be under the roof of DCFS, but each program had a leader. She says the current administration changed that – throwing all groups together and adding a number of upper management positions. And, those put in charge of programs like CPS had no experience in what CPS actually did.

McCall says nothing is going to get better unless there's change. “When one of those children's dies, it will become extremely public, and it will go all the way up to the governor's office, and it will be the fault of the worker, the supervisor, and whoever didn't go out, when in reality, I can't blame them."
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