Saturday, June 7, 2008

ARIZONA STATE LEGISLATURE

ARIZONA STATE LEGISLATURE

CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES

CASELOAD STANDARDS COMMITTEE



Minutes of Meeting
Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Senate Appropriations Room #109



Members Present


Senator David Petersen, Cochair Representative Gail Griffin

Karen Edmundson Richard Dunton

Mary Gonzales Cindy Hicks

David Mendoza Rusty Woods



Members Absent


Senator Scott Bundgaard Representative Debra Brimhall, Cochair

Senator Victor Soltero Representative Rebecca Rios

Anna Arnold Vivian Kidd

Lisa Watkins



Staff:



Barbara Guenther, Senate Family Services Committee Analyst

Brian Lockery, House Human Services Committee Analyst





Senator Petersen called the meeting to order at 1:40 p.m. and attendance was noted. The members of the Committee introduced themselves.



Discussion on Human Service Workers (HSW) and Child Protective Services Specialists (CPSS) Ratios



David Longo, Financial and Business Operations Administrator for the Division of Children and Families, Department of Economic Security (DES), explained the information contained in a handout he distributed entitled Division of Children, Youth and Families – Child Protective Services Staffing Information (see Attachment A). He stated that in order to obtain staffing within the ideal 1:5 ratio they would need an additional 15 supervisors, 6 HSWs, and 17 secretaries. He noted the authorized case management positions for fiscal year 2000 was 687.5 Child Protective Service (CPS) workers and the new figure for 2001 is 697.5, which includes the 10 new positions they received from the last legislative session.



Mr. Longo noted that the figures regarding case management positions requested for fiscal years 2002 and 2003 reflect that the agency did not ask to "backfill" the shortage of positions that currently exist within the agency to obtain the 1:5 ratio. He indicated the turnover percentage rate for CPSS is increasing each year. He reviewed the Quarterly Vacancy Report and the CPS Recruitment Efforts also contained in the handout. He stated open positions are noticed on the Internet, where a lot of interest has been generated, and they also advertise in different publications and conduct job fairs.



Mr. Longo explained that most of the information contained in the Competitive Salaries for CPS Workers portion of the handout was taken from the Liz Todd Study from a year ago. He indicated the report recommends a pay raise for all CPS Series and also recommends the regrading of the CPS Series and an incentive for workers who obtain college degrees.



In response to Ms. Edmundson, Mr. Longo stated the recommendation of a special recruitment rate of $23,100 for HSWs would include that current employees also receive an increase so that inequities would not be created. In response to Senator Petersen, Mr. Longo stated the increase for the existing worker would be above the $23,100 figure and he believed the recommendation was for at least a 10% raise for any employee currently making under that amount.



In response to Representative Griffin, Mr. Longo stated District 1 encompasses Maricopa County, District 2 Pima County, and District 6 Santa Cruz and Greenlee Counties.



In response to Senator Petersen, Mr. Longo stated he did not have data available today regarding the average length of employment for CPS workers, but he would get back to the Committee with the information. He offered that some of the CPS workers on the Committee might be able to shed some light from a district perspective. He stated from a global perspective they have experienced workers leaving from all levels and added that new employees are not staying that long once they get into the field and see the intense requirements it takes to perform their job. Mr. Longo also indicated he would provide information on the years of experience an employee obtains before being promoted to supervisor.



Ms. Hicks stated she has a sense of what is going on around the district, however, she indicated the district is too large to keep a very close touch on what is going on in every office. She said in her office there are only three people, including herself, who have been there since the beginning of the year. She noted that one of their new employees only stayed about a month and took a job at Rio Salado Community College teaching an adult literacy course for a $12,000 pay increase. She stated they have had both experienced and new employees leave.



Ms. Hicks stated that Vivian Kidd asked her to relay to the Committee that there was not a day that went by in the past month that she did not think of resigning and that she has applied for another job with the Pima County Juvenile Court for more money, and is waiting to hear from them.



Ms. Edmundson asked if there has been any discussion about separating out the classifications for supervisors and CPS Program Specialists, because they are still at the same rate of pay. Mr. Longo referred to the Competitive Salaries for CPS Workers portion of the handout and stated they came up with some preliminary class codes and recommended titles. He indicated they are currently at the same recommended grade and it would be up to the Department of Administration or the people changing the initiative to decide that issue. He stated DES was only looking at how to bring all CPS workers into a new class, not just the CPS Is, IIs, and IIIs.



Ms. Hicks stated one of the problems she has observed over the past several years is that special recruitment rates and general salary increases do a fairly nice job of recruiting people, but once they are hired and find that they are probably not going to be making a whole lot more, it contributes to the turnover rate. She asked if there has been any consideration for step increases. Mr. Longo stated there is no proposal before the agency regarding step increases and he indicated they are trying to be proactive and start some dialogue in this area. He stated the Department of Administration has a plan they are working on, however, it does not include step increases.



Senator Petersen asked what the cost is for recruitment and training of a CPSS from date of hire until they are trained. Mr. Longo stated he did not have an exact figure on the cost because one of the tough areas to determine is the "training period" because CPS caseworkers handle cases on day one. Senator Petersen stated the Department should be able to establish a figure for recruitment and suggested there must be a certain amount of time that could be equated to the salary for training. He indicated it would be beneficial for the Legislature to have that information.



Delores Reed, Assistant Deputy Director, Division for Children, Youth and Families, DES, stated there have been national studies indicating it takes approximately a year from the time of hire before a caseworker can understand the caseload and the rules, regulations and laws that pertain to child welfare. She offered there have been some estimated costs as high as $100,000 per worker for turnover. She emphasized that it is very expensive to have the kind of turnover DES experiences and it gives additional reason to look at the problem and try to retain experienced staff.


Senator Petersen stated he has advocated for pay raises over the last several years and one of the main problems is that other areas of government also need increases because of high turnover rates, specifically the prison system. He stated he would be interested in knowing what the turnover cost is for CPS caseworkers, which he assumed would be higher than most other state positions. He asked what the recruitment and training cost is for the average state worker. Ms. Guenther indicated she would research that information.



Mr. Mendoza noted that a Department of Corrections study found that to recruit and train an officer for the prison costs $9,500 per position. He opined that CPS workers would require a much larger amount of money.



Ms. Reed clarified that the $100,000 figure she quoted earlier includes the salary costs for a full year, not just recruitment and training.



Mr. Longo stated he would gather cost information regarding recruitment and training of CPS workers.



Mr. Mendoza stated a study was conducted by the Auditor General in 1994 which found that the average cost for recruitment and training for a state employee was $5,000.



Representative Griffin stated these questions and issues are very important because there is only so much money in the budget and every agency is competing for those funds.



In response to Senator Petersen, Mr. Longo stated the vacancy rates have steadily increased slightly each year. He noted that the Liz Todd Study from August 23, 1999 indicated that across all classes, all districts and all quarters, in FY 1998-99 the average length for state service for all people leaving was 3.28 years. CPS IIs averaged .99 years of service, CPS IIIs averaged 7 years of service, HSWs averaged 2.52 years of service, and the average length of state service across all districts for supervisors was 12.19 years.



Senator Petersen emphasized that this year is the beginning of the biennial legislative budget, which makes it a critical time for the Committee to make recommendations.



Ms. Hicks recommended instituting step increases and that employees with master's degrees be given some benefit for having acquired those degrees. She stated employees have been encouraged to obtain degrees, yet there has not been any benefit in terms of salary increases, job promotions, etc. She added that another issue for CPS IIIs is job stagnation because once they hit that level there is nowhere to go if they want to remain as case managers. She indicated the merit increases the Legislature has funded over the past several years have barely kept up with the rate of inflation and the largest merit increase in District 1 this last year was 2.8%. She emphasized that workers need to be given meaningful increases or they will continue to leave and the increases should be on a more regular and predictable schedule.



Mr. Woods indicated he is a supervisor of an adoption and foster care program and also formerly worked for the State for ten years making him familiar with the issues within the State system. One of his concerns is the lack of experience for supervisors and also the pay level for the front line supervisor.



Mr. Dunton stated the number one priority the employees in his district expressed is reinstituting the step system, which was discontinued in approximately 1984. They also want incentive pay for college degrees and for those who are bilingual. In response to Senator Petersen, Mr. Dunton said the State does reimburse for tuition. Mr. Dunton also noted that supervisors can advance without an educational degree, whereas a worker cannot go past a CPS I.



Ms. Gonzales stated in her district within some of the different programs within DES there was some monetary incentives put back for the actual workers for programs that had succeeded in certain areas. The money was given back as bonuses to the employees at the end of the year, which she indicated is a very strong incentive for people.



Ms. Edmundson stated agreement with all of the recommendations and added if the Committee was to pick one priority it should be the step program for step pay increases. She stated recruitment is one thing, but keeping employees is a higher priority at this point in time and there is no incentive to become a supervisor because a CPS worker can make more money from overtime pay.



In response to Senator Petersen, Mr. Longo explained that the overtime pay decisions are not made by DES, but rather by the Department of Administration. Different positions are exempt or non-exempt according to federal standards, which have been in place since the early 1960s.



Mr. Mendoza stated the Department of Corrections (ADC) some years back developed a three-pronged approach: One is money to increase the entry level and the second is a step system to keep employees, and the third is to lower the years of service for retirement from 25 to 20 years. The rationale is that if an employee works 8-10 years they will be more inclined to stay another 10 years. He stated ADC has not achieved the latter, but they are working on it. He emphasized that the step system should be a first priority for this Committee. He suggested they look at the other agencies with a step system and see if they have a more stabilized work force.



Larry Chesley, House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Analyst, stated he wanted to correct Mr. Mendoza by saying, "They did do the three steps and there is still a shortage of 1200 people. The turnover has gone down, but they still cannot fill those positions."



Senator Petersen requested the Committee members submit their suggestions to him and then Ms. Guenther will prepare a letter.



Dian Fleegal, CPSS III, representing herself, stated she has talked with her coworkers about the kinds of things that might help caseload, burnout, and turnover retention problems. She stated one of the problems is the over abundance of private dependency petitions being filed in Maricopa County. She stated the petitions do not have to meet the same criteria as CPS and as a result, they have to do an investigation to determine if they can support the petition, which is very time consuming. She indicated she had approximately ten in the last year and supported only one. Ms. Fleegal said that many times the petitions are for delinquent children who have been passed on to CPS for services. People try to utilize CPS as a social service agency, which it is not, and many times CPS receives requests to do things for families because they simply want services, not because there is a legitimate dependency. She stated they feel the most suitable solution for this problem is to change the dependency laws and make dependencies more difficult.



Ms. Fleegal indicated they are seeing more violations of parental rights in the courts because they are simply courts ordering children into care without an investigation that there is a dependency. Many times parents are not fully apprised either. She stated they would like to see a change to limit the number of private dependency petitions, if not eliminate them altogether. She suggested CPS establish the criteria, in conjunction with the Legislature, for dependency petitions and require that all dependencies go through CPS or redefine what a dependency is.



Elaine Kotrba, CPSS III, representing herself, stated the Legislature should eliminate the private dependency petitions, which would not require any money being spent and would save taxpayers money because of the tremendous amount of time that is wasted on these petitions. She stated they violate parental rights and they do not follow state laws. She noted that CPS is required to notify parents of temporary custody and none of the private dependency petitions have done that. She stated she worked on 10 to12 private dependency petitions this year and only one was valid. She emphasized most of the petitions they work on are a complete waste of time.



Ms. Edmundson stated petitions are not the number one crisis in rural areas, but rather their crisis is dealing with the delinquents who are in detention and parents who refuse to pick up their children. CPS is expected to put delinquent criminal children in foster homes with other children that are abused or neglected. She related a personal experience where she was required to find a place for two children who were in detention at Durango that CPS was court-ordered to remove by 5:00 p.m. One of the juveniles was detained for grand theft auto and the other was for assault. She said her office finally found a shelter for them, but she had to refuse to pick them up and take them by herself to the shelter because it would have put herself and her staff at risk.



In response to Mr. Mendoza, Ms. Kotrba stated not having a step system is a big problem for the workers as there are heavy caseloads and a lot of overtime required for the low pay they are presently receiving.



Senator Petersen asked Mr. Longo if he knew how many hours of overtime has been paid in the last year and if it is also increasing annually. Mr. Longo stated it is an increasing number and he did not have the exact figure, but would estimate it to be over $1.5 million.



Ms. Edmundson noted that they have been directed to keep workers' overtime under control to ideally no more than four hours of overtime per week. She emphasized the increase in overtime should take into account that there is an effort not to approve as much overtime.



Beth Rosenberg, Senior Program Associate, Children's Action Alliance, stated there are many families who need services and sometimes they go to all lengths, including filing private dependency petitions, to obtain those services. She acknowledged it is certainly a drain of CPS resources, however, she indicated the problem should be looked at cautiously. A study should be conducted as to why those families are coming into the CPS system to get services, to figure out what the solutions should be, but redefining dependency will not solve the problems. She stated she certainly sympathizes with the CPS workers who are overwhelmed and the Children's Action Alliance supports the DES request for additional staff for next year and she hopes the original DES request remains the same as the recommendations of this Committee.



Ms. Rosenberg indicated the Children's Action Alliance also supports the request for the CPS training academy that will provide training to workers prior to them obtaining case assignments. They also support the increase in grade levels and salaries – the step program. She stated the compensation issue in the DES budget request is a critical issue and is not part of the budget request per se, but rather is on the third tier of critical issues and any push this Committee can give in terms of looking at that issue would be helpful.



Ms. Rosenberg distributed a flyer noticing a Symposium sponsored by the Children's Action Alliance (see Attachment B) and urged the members of the Committee to attend. She stated the speaker at the symposium is nationally recognized and has worked with other states in terms of what are some of the solutions to resolving some of these problems.



Senator Petersen stated this would be the last Committee meeting for this year and encouraged the members to submit to him any areas of concern. He thanked the members for their hard work. He asked that suggestions to be included in the letter be submitted to his office by Friday, December 15 and stated the draft letter will be faxed to the members on Monday, December 18. He requested responses be back by the end of next week. He suggested the final letter should be sent to the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, the Governor, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, and John Clayton, Director of DES.



In response to Mr. Mendoza, Senator Petersen stated he would be happy to sponsor legislation regarding the issues identified and stated he would ask Senator Hartley, the Chairman-elect of the Family Services Committee, to co-sponsor any legislation.



Senator Petersen adjourned the meeting at 2:50 p.m.



Respectfully submitted,





_________________________

Rosetta B. Cutty

Committee Secretary



(Tapes and attachments on file in the Secretary of the Senate’s Office.)









---------- DOCUMENT FOOTER ---------

Child Protective Services Caseload Standards Committee

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Page 7