The Office of Child Advocate is calling for additional caseworkers and additional training at the Division of Children, Youth and Families. That was one of many recommendations from the OCA in its first annual report released Monday.
The Office of Child Advocate was created about a year ago in the wake of the deaths of two children at the hands of abusive parents. The deaths occurred despite the fact that both cases had been reported to DCYF.
One problem identified in the investigation that followed was an overwhelmed DCYF staff. In the annual report, OCA Director Moira O’Neill praised lawmakers for adding 33 new positions last year, but says more are still needed.
"I’m sure that a lot of legislators felt that they were finished with fixing DCYF, but the fact of the matter is that we’re still largely over caseload standards. And when you don’t have enough, you just don’t have enough," said O'Neill.
DCYF staff now manage an average of 44 cases each. That’s down from a high of 90 cases, but still well above the recommended number of 12.
The report also calls for more state resources to help children and families early on -- before problems become severe.
"Right now, the way our system is set up, we wait around for children to be battered and beaten before we’ll help them," said O'Neill. "That just doesn’t make any moral or even fiscal sense."
The report also recommends an update to the state’s definition of psychological maltreatment. The report argues the burden of proof is so high right now that DCYF staff are discouraged to pursue cases based on psychological abuse even when they witness it.
According to the report, from January 30th to September 30th, 2018, DCYF received 14,590 allegations of abuse or neglect. Of those, only 697 were allegations of psychological abuse and only 25 were substantiated.
The full report can be viewed below.