From our News Partners at WCBD-TV:
Caseworkers at the South Carolina Department of Social Services are handling caseloads above what’s recommended by a national child welfare group, according to DSS’s own numbers. 7 On Your Side obtained the numbers for how many cases all caseworkers were handling on May 19.
The Child Welfare League of America recommends that caseworkers handle no more than 12 cases that involve investigations, 17 cases of family preservation, or 12 to 15 foster care cases. But two caseworkers in Lexington County were handling 48 cases each. Others across the state were handling more than the maximum recommended 17.
In fact, 12 of the 46 counties averaged more than 17 cases per worker, and that’s including some supervisors and trainees who handled a small number of cases.
Lexington County had the highest caseload, averaging 23 cases per worker. Spartanburg and Newberry counties averaged 22 cases; Charleston 21; Cherokee and Colleton 20; Florence, Laurens, and Sumter had 19; York averaged 18; and Greenville, Oconee, and Hampton had 17.
DSS regional director Malik Whitaker says, “It's a matter of figuring out is it a need for more people, more resources, better work processes? We're in the process of identifying and doing some problem-solving. What's the root cause? When we had more staff, did we respond in a better way? Were there less abuse and neglect? Or is it about more people or is it the way we do our work? Is it about the quality of decision-making? We're all trying to understand better what's going on."
He says DSS will be hiring more caseworkers, but finding people who are qualified can be difficult. The job requires a college degree but the pay is low and the stress is high.
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