Right now, in my home state of South Carolina, there is a disaster of a social services system. We have multiple problems at play here. But one of our largest, and in my opinion, easily fixed, is the issue of caseworkers. In South Carolina, they are underpaid, overworked, and then hugely criticized when their absolute best efforts are mediocre. But what else could they be?
In one county, according to our Department of Social Services Oversight Committee, one caseworker has 114 children on her caseload. One human keeping up with the paperwork and visiting that many children is a physical impossibility.
Which leads to another problem: High caseworker turnover. I was told it takes nine months from hired to working-a-caseload. So, one caseworker quits. Then the already-trained and already-overburdened caseworkers take over her cases for nine months. And that is the best case scenario. It would only be nine months if they hired a new caseworker on the same day that the first caseworker quit.
When you give caseworkers double, triple (or more) what their caseload is supposed to be and pay them less-than-half of what their private-sector comrades are making, of course they quit.
Which leads to tired caseworkers. Which leads to inadequate supervision by caseworkers. Each problem stemming from the first, absurd caseloads, begets more problems.
Foster children need a voice. They need less empty politics and more logic in action. These children need trained, compensated, rested caseworkers. They need families, compassion, love.
Why is it so complicated?
Christy Irons is a mother of eight. Five were adopted from foster care, two were adopted internationally.