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Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) List Serve

Database of Past CMRL Messages

Welcome to the database of past Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) list serve messages. The table below contains all past CMRL messages (text only, no attachments) from Nov. 20, 1996 - December 22, 2017 and is updated quarterly.

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Message ID: 9121
Date: 2012-03-11

Author:Melanie Sage

Subject:Re: CPS Investigator Caseloads

Yes, I would start by questioning the data. Is there a mode reported? As a social worker in North Carolina, our office investigators handled about 15-25 referrals a month (2001). When I worked in California child welfare I handled 25-40 referrals a month (and typically had to work 10-15 hours overtime to manage.) (2002-03). In Oregon, it was about 20-25. (2005-06). In North Dakota here where my husband is currently an investigation worker, he gets an average 16 a month. This is the most manageable caseload size in our personal experience. (In this state they allow cases to be closed mid-assessment if a decision can be made, and I don't know whether this counts as a completed assessment or not.) You assumed a 40 hour work week, which is also inaccurate. I would guess about an average 10 hours a week is spent on meetings (unit, all-office, community outreach, special trainings, MDT's for the cases of peers.) According to American Humane, their studies suggest 30-40% of worker time is spent on non-case activities, which calculates to 12-16 hours a week. (http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/advocacy/caseworker_workload_paper.pdf) The same report indicates only about 25% of worker time is in direct communication with people involved in the case. In CA, I regularly had to sit in court (on cases not mine, waiting for my case to be called) for 4 hours once a week. Depending on the state, I sometimes spent 10 hours a week driving to homes in sum, which really can't be counted as "time working on a case." Since 20% of our country is rural, perhaps there are some areas where the caseloads are smaller (and the drives longer). I looked up the report and information is grouped by state here: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm10/cm10.pdf#page=17 I guess it would be even more helpful to see numbers by county. If we use some of these numbers from American Humane (see Figure 2) report, here's what a monthly 40 hour workload might look like this (feel free to double-check me, it's a lazy Saturday afternoon and I try not to calculate anything on Saturdays) caseload size: 15 cases (low average, based on my personal experience) contact with families and children: 10 hours documentation and waiting/appearing/preparing for court: 17 hours travel: 5 hours communication on case not with family: 8 hours time in direct contact with families: 10 hours, 15 cases = about 40 minutes per family If we assume the much lower caseload size reported by Children's Bureau, the average investigative worker conducts 6 cases a month. (I've never heard of this happening anywhere.) This would allow for almost 2 hours of direct contact per family. Melanie Sage, LICSW, PhD University of North Dakota Dept of Social Work On Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM, Edward Opton wrote: > The Children’s Bureau report “Child Maltreatment 2010” includes interesting > data on CPS investigator caseloads.  According to the report: > > > > “Using data from 41 States, in FFY 2010, investigation workers conducted an > average of 66.7 responses a year . . . .”  (P. 9.) > > > > If one assumes a work-year of 49 work weeks at 40 hours per week, a caseload > of 66.7 cases per year would allow an average of 29.4 hours per case.  Is > that consonant with the many, many complaints that investigative caseworkers > are crushed beneath inhuman, impossible workloads? > > > > To an outsider, it might seem that 29+ hours would be enough for an average > case—some cases would require more time, some less.  But is an average of > 29+ hours not enough for the average case?  If not, why not?  Or is there > reason to question the accuracy of the 66.7 case per year statistic? > > > > A related question: what is a “caseload?”  Some caseworker supervisors don’t > seem to know whether “caseload” means: > > > > (a) the number of cases a caseworker has “open” at a particular point in > time, such as the last day of a month; > > (b) the number of cases a caseworker has “open” on at least one day during a > period of time, such as a month, i.e.,  the number of “old” cases still open > at the beginning of a month plus the number of new cases assigned during > that month; > > (c) the number of new cases a caseworker is assigned during a period of > time, such as a month; > > (d) some other definition. > > > > Is there a standard definition of the term? > > > > Edward Opton, Ph.D. > > National Center for Youth Law > > 405 14th St. > > Oakland, CA 94612 > > Eopton[at]youthlaw.org

Yes, I would start by questioning the data. Is there a mode reported? As a social worker in North Carolina, our office investigators handled about 15-25 referrals a month (2001). When I worked in California child welfare I handled 25-40 referrals a month (and typically had to work 10-15 hours overtime to manage.) (2002-03). In Oregon, it was about 20-25. (2005-06). In North Dakota here where my husband is currently an investigation worker, he gets an average 16 a month. This is the most manageable caseload size in our personal experience. (In this state they allow cases to be closed mid-assessment if a decision can be made, and I don't know whether this counts as a completed assessment or not.) You assumed a 40 hour work week, which is also inaccurate. I would guess about an average 10 hours a week is spent on meetings (unit, all-office, community outreach, special trainings, MDT's for the cases of peers.) According to American Humane, their studies suggest 30-40% of worker time is spent on non-case activities, which calculates to 12-16 hours a week. (http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/advocacy/caseworker_workload_paper.pdf) The same report indicates only about 25% of worker time is in direct communication with people involved in the case. In CA, I regularly had to sit in court (on cases not mine, waiting for my case to be called) for 4 hours once a week. Depending on the state, I sometimes spent 10 hours a week driving to homes in sum, which really can't be counted as "time working on a case." Since 20% of our country is rural, perhaps there are some areas where the caseloads are smaller (and the drives longer). I looked up the report and information is grouped by state here: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm10/cm10.pdf#page=17 I guess it would be even more helpful to see numbers by county. If we use some of these numbers from American Humane (see Figure 2) report, here's what a monthly 40 hour workload might look like this (feel free to double-check me, it's a lazy Saturday afternoon and I try not to calculate anything on Saturdays) caseload size: 15 cases (low average, based on my personal experience) contact with families and children: 10 hours documentation and waiting/appearing/preparing for court: 17 hours travel: 5 hours communication on case not with family: 8 hours time in direct contact with families: 10 hours, 15 cases = about 40 minutes per family If we assume the much lower caseload size reported by Children's Bureau, the average investigative worker conducts 6 cases a month. (I've never heard of this happening anywhere.) This would allow for almost 2 hours of direct contact per family. Melanie Sage, LICSW, PhD University of North Dakota Dept of Social Work On Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM, Edward Opton wrote: > The Children’s Bureau report “Child Maltreatment 2010” includes interesting > data on CPS investigator caseloads.  According to the report: > > > > “Using data from 41 States, in FFY 2010, investigation workers conducted an > average of 66.7 responses a year . . . .”  (P. 9.) > > > > If one assumes a work-year of 49 work weeks at 40 hours per week, a caseload > of 66.7 cases per year would allow an average of 29.4 hours per case.  Is > that consonant with the many, many complaints that investigative caseworkers > are crushed beneath inhuman, impossible workloads? > > > > To an outsider, it might seem that 29+ hours would be enough for an average > case—some cases would require more time, some less.  But is an average of > 29+ hours not enough for the average case?  If not, why not?  Or is there > reason to question the accuracy of the 66.7 case per year statistic? > > > > A related question: what is a “caseload?”  Some caseworker supervisors don’t > seem to know whether “caseload” means: > > > > (a) the number of cases a caseworker has “open” at a particular point in > time, such as the last day of a month; > > (b) the number of cases a caseworker has “open” on at least one day during a > period of time, such as a month, i.e.,  the number of “old” cases still open > at the beginning of a month plus the number of new cases assigned during > that month; > > (c) the number of new cases a caseworker is assigned during a period of > time, such as a month; > > (d) some other definition. > > > > Is there a standard definition of the term? > > > > Edward Opton, Ph.D. > > National Center for Youth Law > > 405 14th St. > > Oakland, CA 94612 > > Eopton[at]youthlaw.org