December 14, 2015
December 14, 2015
DCF workers and Gov. Shumlin. Also in the picture is VSEA Legislative Director Nancy Lynch.
VSEA released the following to the press this afternoon:
A small group of VSEA DCF social workers met personally in Montpelier this afternoon with Governor Shumlin to thank him for his recent announcement about budgeting money for new DCF hires and to urge him to do even more to enhance safety for social workers and for Vermonters visiting DCF offices statewide. They also gave the Governor a list of the safety recommendations DCF frontline workers presented to the Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee on November 18.
“We had a very productive meeting with the Governor and were able to talk frankly with him about our safety concerns, not only for social workers but also for Vermonters who visit our DCF offices every day across the state,” said VSEA member Trissie Casanova, who is a DCF social worker in St. Albans. “After meeting, we’re satisfied the Governor understands our concerns and issues and that he will be a partner moving forward to enhance safety for all DCF workers and the public. The Governor explained to us that the additional DCF workers he just requested represent only phase two of his plan to address employee safety, and he stressed that he is not declaring ‘mission accomplished.’ Those of us in the room recommended he consider the following steps in future phases:
- Increase the number of DCF social workers to 53 and conduct an ongoing assessment of staffing needs to ensure that DCF is meeting the best practice caseload numbers of 12-15 per social worker;
- Keep DCF Investigators workloads to no more than 100 per year;
- Provide trained law enforcement officers in all DCF buildings;
- Ensure that law enforcement has enough staff to provide an officer escort to any social worker who determines that it is needed for any home visit that h/she considers high risk;
- Increase the penalty of any verbal or physical threats made to any state employee from a misdemeanor to a felony; and
- Provide a secure parking lot for each DCF building.
The DCF workers also provided the Governor with the results of a VSEA-created safety survey, where an overwhelming 91% of respondents said they believe a worker’s high caseload is detrimental to staff safety. Other key survey findings include:
- A large majority of DCF social workers are working early and late hours, outside the normal business day;
- A large majority of DCF social workers are performing their duties solo, either in the field or the office. This is important because workers do believe working as a team is preferable in some instances;
- A large majority of DCF social workers currently use their own personal vehicle to conduct client house visits;
- A large majority of DCF social workers feel others believe the expectation should be for workers to expect threats and an unsafe work environment;
- A majority of DCF social workers have been threatened on the job;
- A majority of DCF social workers are housed in a worksite that has uncontrolled public access; and
- A majority of DCF social workers are concerned about their safety in the physical areas, like parking lots, surrounding their worksites.