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DCFS social workers demand smaller case loads

L.A. County social workers filed a lawsuit demanding a reduction in the number of children they manage.
November 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles County social workers say they're overworked with too many cases. Now they've filed a lawsuit demanding a reduction in the number of children they manage.

The union representing L.A. County social workers with the Department of Children and Family Services is suing the county. It's accusing the county of failing to comply with a court order to reduce the case load of social workers to 31 each.

"Our children in Los Angeles County, they need to be protected. And they need to be protected by having additional social workers providing direct practice social work for our kids," said David Green, a social worker with SEIU Local 721.

The union and L.A. County have been working on ironing out a new contract.

Along with a pay raise, the union is asking the county to add 1,400 social workers. According to the county, that's something that needs to be studied.

As far as the court order to reduce the case load, L.A. County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka says the county has more than 200 social worker candidates going through the hiring process right now.

"The department currently has 250 social workers in the queue," said Fujioka. "Some have been hired and they're going through a comprehensive training program, some are in the process of hiring, so that issue has not been ignored."

The Department of Children and Family Services has been under fire after the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in Palmdale this past May. He was tortured and beaten to death. His mother and her boyfriend were arrested and charged with his murder. Two DCFS social workers and two supervisors were fired in the investigation after Fernandez's death.

Both the county and union agree that services need to be improved. What's up for negotiation is how to do that.

Talks between the union and the county broke down on October 30. Indications are that each side is waiting for the other to offer to return to the bargaining table.


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