Friday, December 22, 2006

Sudden about-face due to political reasons

State backs off plan to reassign social worker managers to field
Lexingston Herald-Leader, Feb. 25, 2006, pg. B2.

FRANKFORT -- State officials still want to get more social workers out in the field but will now meet with the workers to discuss how to do so.

Social workers and lawmakers had complained about the plan to reassign managers and administrators, lacking new money to hire social workers. Social workers and some lawmakers said the plan would strip social workers of the experience and advice of supervisors.

"We are committed to listening to the staff," said Tom Emberton Jr., commissioner of the state's child welfare system.

Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, chairman of the House human services budget subcommittee, praised the decision.

"That's what should have been done to start with," said Lee, who led a hearing Tuesday during which opponents protested the reorganization plan.

Emberton and Eugene Foster, an undersecretary with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, attended the hearing where social workers, foster parents and other said the plan would hurt services.

Social workers said Thursday they were pleased they will be consulted but that more money is needed to care for a growing number of children placed under state supervision.

The state's goal is to reduce the average caseload per worker from 21 to 17. That is the level recommended by the agency that accredits Kentucky's child welfare system.

Foster said his goal still is to reduce the average caseload to 17. And he said he hopes to implement a plan by June 16, although that deadline is not absolute.

"It's about getting it right, not getting it done by a certain date," he said.

Foster said he doesn't believe accreditation will be jeopardized if caseloads aren't reduced immediately. The private Council on Accreditation, based in New York, has indicated it is flexible and willing to work with the state as long as it shows it is working to improve services, he said.


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