AUGUSTA, Maine — A new study of the Maine DHHS child protective system says front line caseworkers continue to be overworked and stressed because of a growing case load and an inadequate foster care system.
The study by the state’s OPEGA government watchdog agency, done for the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, is the latest step in the ongoing investigation that followed the deaths last year of two children who were already involved with the child protective system.
The new report says workers are overloaded with cases and sometimes have to work overtime without pay to take care of children.
"It looks from the report where children are staying in hotels more and more with two caseworkers with their shifts, so that’s one example of what they’re seeing across the board -- is lack of placement with high risk youth in particular," said Sen. Justin Chenette, (D-Saco), co-chair of the committee.
The Legislators passed emergency bills last fall to address some of the problems, including hiring more workers and increasing pay. Committee members say they need to find out if those changes have made a difference. Republican Sen. Jeff Timberlake says on measure has made a difference.
"In the surveys that came back I n the report one of the positive things was pay raises kept some of the people here that were leaving and brought some people back. So we know that worked," Timberlake said.
Those surveys for the report were started last September, about the same time the Legislature passed bills to make changes in the child protective system.
The Department of Health and Human Services says in the past six months it has hire more than 30 additional supervisors and caseworkers and increased the payments to foster homes. Other measures passed by the Legislature, including a new computer system to manage the workload, haven’t been implemented yet.
The committee has scheduled a public hearing for March 8 to hear from the DHHS commissioner and others.
The full OPEGA report reads as follows: