ACS Workers Stage Walkout To Protest Heavy Caseloads
By: NY1 News
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Across the city, Administration for Children's Services workers staged a walkout Thursday to protest what they say are overly heavy caseloads.
Employees at the Bronx offices of the ACS say they're dealing with as many as 30 cases, when they should have only 12. Workers also say they've been threatened and unfairly reprimanded.
“Everybody's coming down on us in this climate to make sure that these kids are safe. But that's what we're doing,” said ACS worker Rinette Paul. “We're doing our best to make sure the kids are safe, and at the same time, we want to feel safe too. We want to feel safe and secure in the job and in the environment that we're working."
ACS officials say since the January death of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown, allegedly at the hands of her stepfather, abuse and neglect reports have increased by 61 percent.
In a statement, ACS Commissioner John Mattingly said: "We are working to train and hire a total of 525 new workers by the end of this summer, which will alleviate this pressure by bringing caseloads down for each individual caseworker."
NY1's Dean Meminger filed this report.
Case workers for the Administration for Children's Services say they're being abused and overworked. And during their lunch break Thursday they rallied to demand better treatment.
“The main problem is extremely high case loads,” said ACS worker Shannon Jones. “Our workers, on average from our numbers, are upwards of 30 and 40 cases per worker. In order for us to meet city and state guidelines, we are not able to do so with such high caseloads."
The case workers say they are supposed to visit families under their watch twice a month, but the high caseload makes that impossible. And new cases are being reported every day.
In fact, ACS says there were almost 28,000 reports of abuse or neglect of children from January through the end of April, a whopping 61 percent increase from the same time period last year. The increase follows the beating deaths of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown and Quasaun Brown in January, allegedly at the hands of family members.
Workers complain they have faced extreme pressure and scrutiny ever since.
“Seasoned workers, the veteran workers who have been here for so long are just getting up and quitting,” says ACS worker Danielle Christiani. “We have potential workers coming out of the academy with less training than what should be, and that poses a great problem not only for the workers, but for the families that we are supposed to service.”
The ACS says it's trying to reduce the case load down to 12 for each employee. This year 470 new workers have been hired so far, and other workers have been redeployed to help out.
The ACS workers NY1 spoke with say they want to do a good job protecting the city’s children and families, but they claim the way the system is currently set up, it makes it extremely hard to do an effective job.
“There are lots of barriers at this time, and little hoops we have to go through to refer our families for services,” said ACS worker Robin Williams. “Like today, if we wanted to refer 200 families for services, there are not 200 slots out there available to service our families in the Bronx."
ACS says its workers are doing a good job, by they must meet the goals and demand of their job, and that's protecting children.
- Dean Meminger