Child welfare workers are trying to turn things around after their agency just hit a major milestone by reducing their backlog of cases to under the 10,000 mark. That’s a 40 percent reduction since February of 2015, when the Department of Child Safety had 16,200 backlogged cases.
The backlogged cases are those of alleged child abuse or neglect, opened by DCS, which have gone more than two months without any review or action.
As those results are released this week, ABC15 is getting a rare inside look at how to fix our child welfare system.
“We understand the scrutiny,” assistant program manager Kelly Jaress said. “We welcome it. We are always looking for ways to do things in a better way to work smarter not harder.”
DCS invited our cameras into its Tempe office this week to see a twist on a work party. Managers stocked up on free pizza, cookies and gift baskets to encourage the whole staff to stay late.
The goal of the party was to close 50 backlogged cases. Case managers spent the evening reviewing police reports, school assessments and court records. They finished paperwork and met with their managers for a final review.
DCS officials said being able to clear their plates by closing cases allows then to be ready for the constant influx of new families needing intervention.
“We want to spend our time with the families, with the kids,” Jaress said. “We want to help them. When we leave, we want them to be in a better position than when we came involved.”