Commentary: CPS Set Up For Failure

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, April 3, 2009

Auditors who reviewed operations at Child Protective Services said caseloads are double the recommended number, and trending upward at a worrisome rate.

In some CPS units, caseloads are so high social workers are being “set up for failure,” and those are the auditor’s words, not mine.

For example, family maintenance social workers are required to meet with children and their parents at least twice every month. Assuming one hour visits with a child in a foster home, and a parent in a separate home, a social worker with 40 cases - which is not unusual - would spend 160 hours just making the required visits. That doesn’t include travel time or the fact that many cases involve more than one child.

In the average 168 hour work month, that leaves virtually no time for even the most diligent social worker to complete the reams of required federal, state and county paperwork. As the auditors found, workers are being set up for failure.

I confess, I don't know what needs to be done to fix CPS, but I do think if we want this agency to rescue children in danger, it will need to rescue its social workers first.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.