I’ve been blessed to have the time to visit several of our local area offices over the past few weeks, and during each visit I feel humbled by the conversations I hear from you and your colleagues working in the field.
You are the ones holding the hands of the children in our care, and consoling them when they are sad and missing their families. You are the ones telling mom and dad “you can do it” and encouraging them to do better, even when they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. And you are the ones serving as a lifeline for so many children and adolescents who have no one else to turn to.
As we begin Social Worker Appreciation Month, I want to let you all know how grateful I am for your hard work, tireless dedication and commitment to our children and families. I know that many of you are feeling overwhelmed right now by the constant scrutiny on our Department. I want you to know that our team is working hard to provide you with the resources you need to do your job efficiently and maximize your interactions with families during these difficult times.
Governor Patrick’s $9.2 million budget investment and additional supplemental budget funding will allow the Department to hire more than 175 additional staff to move towards our 15 to 1 caseload goals.
70 social workers have been added to the ranks and 90 social workers have been promoted to positions of additional responsibility since January 1, 2014. In addition, more than 20 retired social workers have been identified to begin work in the near future to support DCF for a period of time.
Our dedicated Human Resources team is focusing on recruitment and staffing efforts throughout the department, and is reviewing hundreds of resumes now to fill additional positions.
Special thanks to those who took advantage of our new employee feedback email address. We are currently reading through the numerous suggestions and will be incorporating the best recommendations as we continue to make changes at the Department.
I also want to acknowledge the concerns and solutions that have been raised by individual social workers and your union, SEIU Local 509. We are taking them seriously to ensure that social workers have the tools to keep kids safe.
A large number of the emails we have received have asked for mobile technology support, and I’m pleased to report that the Governor is making this a priority. The first 60 mobile tablets are being programmed with i-Familynet and will be distributed to on-call supervisors in the coming weeks. This initial technology deployment will be tested on a pilot basis with on-call supervisors, and the results of this pilot will dictate how we deploy additional technology solutions more broadly to DCF social workers in the field later this year.
The technology will allow workers to access DCF case files remotely, enhancing our ability to communicate and record information on families, and eliminating existing lag time in processing reports. This will also help improve consistent documentation, so you can focus more on social work and less on paper work.
I also want to thank you for helping the Department’s worker contact reporting increase from an average of 82.5 percent over 12 months ending November 20, 2013 to 94.6 percent for the month of December, 2013. The increase reflects enhanced case review practices and improvements to the reports to more accurately represent the number of times a child or family is seen.
For Social Worker Appreciation Month we are looking for DCF family success stories to highlight across the state. Please send along your positive social worker success stories to strongsafetynet@MassMail.State.MA.US. We promote the use of this email feedback by all staff, so don’t be alarmed if your manager or local union representative reaches out to follow up with you to help promote the good work of the agency.
I know that the last few months have been difficult, but please, continue to hold your heads high and be proud of the incredible work you are doing. You are making a profound difference in the lives of thousands of children and their families across the Commonwealth.
Happy Social Worker Appreciation Month!