CSEA President Danny Donohue's 2016 Labor Day Message: At-risk children need our attention

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CSEA President Danny Donohue

ALBANY, NY (08/30/2016)(readMedia)-- Every day, across New York state, thousands of kids are at risk of abuse and neglect.

Their situation is made worse because the people responsible for their protection - child protective services workers - are overwhelmed by caseloads that threaten the social safety net. Continuing economic challenges for working New Yorkers and an unprecedented heroin epidemic are contributing to the strain. In some places, caseloads can run up to nearly 70 active cases per month.

That is simply dangerous and nearly impossible to handle. But don't take my word for it. That was the conclusion of a 2006 report by the state's Office of Children and Family Services. It found that smaller caseloads have a direct benefit for children under supervision.

These at-risk kids deserve better than the attention they're receiving under current circumstances.

Caseworkers know this and agonize over the working conditions that too often leave them only bad or worse choices. They have difficult work to do under the best of situations, but rarely have the luxury of that reality. They know that one bad decision can have horrific consequences. They also know there can be unacceptable outcomes through no fault of their own. It's the worst kind of stress.

Last spring, both the Senate and the Assembly acted to address the needs of these kids. Legislation capping caseloads and moving New York in the right direction was approved by both houses. It follows the conclusions of the OCFS report by capping active cases to 15 per month and requiring adequate staffing to ensure appropriate follow-up, investigation and site visits to assess the well being of children in a variety of circumstances.

Now it's up to Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign it and give these kids a chance at a better life. It's the right thing to do for the children and our communities. CSEA joins with many other responsible organizations and elected officials in urging the governor to sign and set the standard.


Danny Donohue is president of the 265,000 member CSEA – New York's leading union – representing people doing every kind of job in every part of New York.