County looks to tackle overcrowding, caseload at Child Haven

LAS VEGAS -- Children being housed at Child Haven, who are among some of the most vulnerable in our community, may not be getting the care and attention they need.

The workers who are tasked with keeping those kids safe say they are overworked.

Department of Family Services employees took their concerns straight to the Clark County Commission Tuesday, and they say things need to change before another child gets hurt.

"When systems are short staffed, bad things can happen," one DFS staff member said to the commission.

"If something tragic does happen, God forbid, the community is quick to blame the Department of Family Services and guess what, me too, as the investigator," Tarsha Stewart with DFS said.

It is an all too real scenario in the Las Vegas valley, just last year a foster couple was arrested after two children in their care were found with serious injuries.

In another case, a 7-year-old boy died from abuse, even though his school called the Department of Family Services to report they were concerned about his safety. The department admitted employees didn't follow protocol and respond in time.

"As much as I love my job, it is filled with stress, anxiety, fatigue, largely because we are subjected to workloads and timelines that are crushing and impossible," Stewart said.

On Tuesday, employees told Clark County Commissioners they feel management is not hearing their concerns and fear as more kids need attention, something could be missed.

"Everyone's caseload is just significant and the workload, which is the expectations around that workload, are significant as well," supervisor with Child Protective Services Sharon Kisling said.

The director of the department Lisa Ruiz-Lee says they have seen an uptick in the number of kids needing shelter in the last several months but her focus remains on finding foster homes for those kids. She did not talk about the employee caseload concerns.

"As we walked out we looked to her, we looked to her as she is our leader and she didn't look at us and that is the perception we have seen consistently over the last two years is we look to our leadership and they have nothing to say to us," Kisling said.

"In the past week alone, two of my colleagues have required emergency treatment due to stress-related conditions. This incident has helped me realize that if I'm not healthy, I can't help anyone else," one DFS worker told commissioners.

The commissioners are now working to create a task force to look into both the concerns of the employees, as well as what is standing in the way to getting more foster homes for kids.

They hope to make some bill draft requests that they can then present to the State Legislature.


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