Friday, December 22, 2006

Reorganization will reduce caseloads from 21 to 17

Lexington Herald-Leader, Feb. 15, 2006, pg. B6.

FRANKFORT -- In a move aimed at improving child welfare, state officials plan to transfer 153 social work administrators intoState shakes up social work agency
Administrators head to field the field.

The reorganization, announced Monday, will reduce the average caseload from 21 to 17 per social worker. It will be phased in over the next four months so that the total number of social workers would reach 1,623, said officials from the Department for Community Based Services.

"Our ultimate goal is to strengthen our front line," said Tom Emberton Jr., commissioner of the state's Department of Community Based Services.

Emberton said position transfers will be voluntary, and if too few administrators volunteer, the positions will be reclassified when there are vacancies. No one will take a pay cut, he said.

Emberton, who testified Monday before the House budget subcommittee on human services, said the department's 16 regional offices will be merged into four.

Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, said the reorganization makes sense.

"It's another way of providing extra workers without having any money to hire them," said Lee, chairman of the budget subcommittee.

But Lee also said he thinks more money should go to social services. "It's been underfunded for years," he said.

Angela Simmons, a state social worker in Jefferson County, thinks the move could reduce opportunities for advancement.

"You're going to get burned out doing casework," she said.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher has proposed adding $29.4 million to the department's budget over the next two years to care for the increasing number of children who are abused or neglected. More than 7,300 children are under care supervised by the state.

Emberton and Eugene Foster, undersecretary for families and children in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said they can work within the governor's proposed budget.

They also proposed providing social workers with a laptop computer, digital camera and cell phone to improve case management.

"We're looking at what we have and how to improve on it," Foster said.


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