Recently retired DFCS case worker Nancy Gordon
ATLANTA -- "I couldn't handle the stress anymore," is the reason Nancy Gordon gave 11 Alive for retiring from Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services last month.
She said she left after 10 years, most of them as a case worker, because she couldn't take what it was doing to her mind and her life.
"You need to know what the life of a case worker is like," she told 11 Alive's Rebecca Lindstrom.
Gordon contacted 11 Alive to defend DFCS case workers and what they go through.
She described long hours, overwhelming case loads, too many things out of their control such as court hearings and too many policy changes, like no longer interviewing potentially abused children alone at school, but only at home with their parents present.
"There aren't children that are gonna speak up that they're being hurt by their parents while their parents are sitting in the same room," Gordon said.
She believes DFCS does need to be held accountable for failures, like the recent abuse and starvation death of 10-year-old Emani Moss.
But she said case workers seldom get credit for the many children they save.
Gordon said blaming the individual case worker is too convenient and often unfair.
She said the agency is too top heavy with managers and not enough case workers.
In response to an Open Records request, 11 Alive got these figures from DFCS about their employee ratio:
The agency told us as of November 1st, they had 1,644 social services (child welfare) case managers.
They also had 374 supervisors, 59 administrators, 10 program directors and 63 field program specialists who DFCS said provide case consultation, review records and step into miscellaneous management roles when needed.
Basically, that translates into 1 manager for every 3 case workers.
"Front line workers, you need the workers that are going out in the field to get the information, to see the families," Gordon said.
"You don't need any more supervisors, you don't need all these people asking for reports, you need warm bodies in the field," she added.
In response to several recent child deaths, Governor Nathan Deal told 11 Alive last week he will ask the legislature to authorize $27-million to add 525 new DFCS workers over the next 3 years, some of them supervisors.
That's about a 25% increase, but retired case worker Gordon points out it only averages 3 more per county when 1 in 5 are leaving each year.