Commissioner Seeks To Get DSS Back To Full Strength

OSWEGO, NY – Caseworkers at the county Department of Social Services have been carrying larger than usual case loads for about a month now.

At this week’s Finance and Personnel Committee meeting, Commissioner Gregg Heffner requested the legislature expedite refilling five caseworker positions.

These positions are a mixture between child protective services and family services, he said.

Three are the result of retirement and two are resignation, he explained.

“They have been vacant for more than 30 days, four out of the five, and the other is coming up on 30 days,” he told the committee.

These are mandated positions, he added.

“Approximately 20 percent of my workforce in the services division is operating with a year or less. We are in a critical situation because those individuals who have not yet been trained or not fully trained are not at full case load,” he said. “So, the longer term caseworkers are carrying the bulk of the work for child protective and family services. That is creating some concern regarding our ability to investigate, investigate fully and on time.”

These positions are scheduled for fill on May 18.

In order to get these individuals into training, the commissioner said he needs to have them registered at least a week before, because the training would occur in June.

“If I don’t get them into the June state training, they are going to have to wait until September or October to be trained. That’s going to delay their ability to do their job,” he explained.

Each caseworker has their own specific case load.

Now, the extra cases are redistributed to existing workers.

“Plus, any new reports that come in are handled by the workers that are trained and currently available in regular rotation. The standard practice, provided by New York State, is a maximum of 15 cases per worker. Our average is probably around 20 right now,” Heffner said. “We are divided into quadrants for Oswego County and so we have teams of workers that will operate only in specific quadrants.”

He can’t register anyone for training until they are actually hired by the county.

So, the committee recommended hiring people by April 20 to help ensure a place at the state training.

They will be trained locally, the commissioner said. They will shadow existing caseworkers until such time as they go through their state training.

“We can’t actually assign them cases until after they have successfully completed their state training,” he added. “That’s the challenge that we get into. We can have them work with an existing caseworker, we can have them go out in the field and work in tandem with a trained caseworker, do contacts, do notes. But we can’t assign them cases under their own name until they complete their state training.”

The committee sent the resolution to the full legislature for consideration.