Ashton Marra Published

Audit says state should focus on safety of Child Protective Service workers


An audit of the Bureau for Children and Families says the Department of Health and Human Resources needs to focus on the safety of Child Protective Service workers making home visits throughout the state.

Legislative auditors presented their review of the bureau to lawmakers with six recommendations on how to improve safety for workers monitoring cases and conducting investigations outside of their county offices.

Those include:

1. Increase focus on worker safety and create a culture that emphasizes worker safety through creating a central and uniform focus on safety.

2.    Avoid any further delays in providing personal safety devices for all CPS workers and develop a statewide, uniform practice for their use.

3.    Identify areas of weak/nonexistent mobile phone coverage and explore the use of other communication technology.

4.    Provide agency mobile phones to all field workers and require their use for state business conducted from remote locations.

5.    Provide methamphetamine safety training and establish stringent methamphetamine safety guidelines for social workers.

6.    Require annual safety training.

As auditors explained their recommendations to members of the Joint Committee on Government Organization, they explained the bureau has been aware of communication issues during home visits since a CPS worker was killed on the job five years ago, but have yet to make any changes to the devices workers are carrying with them.

Bureau Commissioner Nancy Exline said over the next few months, they will be testing a variety of communication devices including satellite phones, life alert type badges and cell phone boosters to determine which technologies will be useful in different areas of the state.

“We’re currently doing a complete inventory of all of our cell phones, the technology they have, where they work, where they don’t work, where we need booster,” she said. “It is my hope that in December we can begin to make decisions about what devices we need to have where and which ones are the best to use for all of our field staff.”

Legislators asked Exline to return with a report in December detailing the devices that will be used by CPS workers and how additional safety procedures have been implemented as suggested by the audit.