Department for Children and Families

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Story + Video: Shumlin says $8.4 million needed to boost child protection

https://youtu.be/CLL6zC-3XfU

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday laid out an $8.4 million plan to add 35 workers at the Department for Children and Families as well as an additional superior court judge and increased resources for the Defender General and State’s Attorneys Offices because of a growing demand for child protection services. Shumlin, speaking at a State House news conference, said the state’s child welfare system has struggled to keep pace with an influx of cases related to substance abuse, and opiate addiction in particular. The number of children in state custody has ballooned from 982 in September 2013 to 1,373 as of this past September. The increase, according to Shumlin, is largely driven by parents addicted to opiates. A DCF survey of cases found that 80 percent of cases involving children under the age of three were the result of opiate abuse. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Lara’s Legacy

lancing through my morning paper the other day, an entry in the “police log” caught my eye, and not in a good way. It read “A woman threatened to ‘go all Jody Herring’ on a Department for Children and Families caseworker.” It was a harsh reminder of how important VSEA’s current campaign to enhance on-the-job safety for DCF workers is. But this group of workers is not alone. VSEA members working in the Employment Services Division, Office of Child Support, Probation and Parole, Corrections and other agencies and departments throughout state government have also told their union that they would like improved on-the-job safety. VSEA members recognize that our request for increased worker safety protections will cost money, but another Lara Sobel tragedy is something no one wants, and, judging by the newspaper entry I told you about (and other scary incidents workers have been told me about), time is particularly of the essence here. Continue Reading →

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State revenue growth to continue, but remains volatile

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin Administration says revenue forecasts will likely remain unchanged going into the next year, while acknowledging revenue streams have grown more volatile. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson hosted an Internet forum Monday afternoon to inform the public on the pressures lawmakers will face as they craft the 2017 budget, and took testimony from the public on the effects budget cuts might have to social services. In a good news-bad news sort of statement, Johnson discussed the trend of revenues coming into state coffers. “Revenue is growing. It has been growing consistently, year over year, since the global financial crisis in 2008,” Johnson said. Continue Reading →

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VSEA presents security requests

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Employees Association is calling for a cap on case loads for social workers and added security measures in the wake of the slaying of a Department for Children and Families worker in August. Nancy Lynch, a legislative specialist for the VSEA, and Trissie Casanova, a social worker and chairwoman of the group’s Labor Management Committee, presented the union’s proposals to the Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee Wednesday morning. Worker safety has been a major concern for state workers following the August slaying of Lara Sobel, who was gunned down in the parking lot outside a DCF office in Barre. Casanova told the panel that VSEA wants to cap case loads for social workers at no more than 15 per worker. In addition, the union wants to limit investigations per worker to no more than 17 at a time and have one administrative assistant for every 12 social workers. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration won’t seek more funds in budget adjustment

MONTPELIER — Shumlin administration officials say they are hoping to avoid asking lawmakers for additional funds for the 2016 fiscal year in the annual budget adjustment and will instead ask for the authority to shuffle spending within state government. Finance Commissioner Andrew Pallito, who took over the post on Nov. 1, will update the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee Friday on the administration’s budget adjustment progress and its plan to address a $35 to $40 million gap in the Medicaid program. Pallito said Thursday the administration will seek “spending authority manipulation across state government” to help close the Medicaid gap and address additional budget pressures in state government. “We’re going to zero it,” Pallito said. Continue Reading →

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Barre DCF workers will move to nearby courthouse after shooting

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration is planning to move Department for Children and Families workers from their location at Barre City Place to a nearby courthouse, a direct response to the August shooting death of a DCF worker. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson told reporters Friday that about 30 employees in DCF’s Economic Services Division will make the one-block move by the end of year. The employees will take over the fourth floor of the state-owned courthouse, he said. To accommodate them, the Washington County State’s Attorney’s office will move down to the courthouse’s second floor, he said. “That group of people have been fairly traumatized,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Vermont child abuse reports, cases on the rise

MONTPELIER — The number of Vermont children in state custody rose sharply in 2014 to record numbers as families struggled with a slow economy and the scourge of substance abuse, according to the Department for Children and Families’ annual child protection report. The annual report, released Tuesday, found there are currently 1,326 children in DCF custody. That’s a 33 percent increase since the beginning of 2014. DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz said the increase is “particularly striking” for children under six, which saw an increase of 68 percent. “Why is this happening? Continue Reading →

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