State Child Protection Workers Picket In Holyoke, Calling For Reduced Caseloads

On the day the Child Welfare League released a report critical of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, a group of social workers picketed the agency’s Holyoke office Wednesday. They say caseloads are reaching crisis proportion.

Ethel Everett was among those calling for more staffing and other resources to handle a sharp increase in workloads in recent months. She says there have been nearly 2,500 more cases in western Massachusetts with no additional staff since last December. That’s the same month that Jeremiah Oliver, the five-year-old Fitchburg boy who died under DCF care, was reported missing. Everett says the current situation threatens to put more children at risk.

“Morale is the worst that it’s ever been. I’ve been here 23 years, going on 24 years, and it’s never been this bad. Some folks walk around in a daze. There’s just a level of fear because they don’t want to be the next social worker that has a Jeremiah Oliver on their case,” says Everett.

In response to the Oliver case, the Patrick Administration is proposing an additional $9.2 million to DCF’s budget for the next fiscal year. Many social workers say that’s not enough.