Family Services: Employees overworked, overstressed

LAS VEGAS -- Some employees at the Department of Family Services say they are dealing with impossible work loads.

The department is handling more investigations which means there is a heavier workload for many caseworkers. Since 2012, intake calls are up 13 percent, investigations are up 14 percent and the number of kids is up 37 percent. The DFS is planning to now add more workers amid tense union negotiations.

As a supervisor with Child Protective Services, Sharon Kisling says she's overworked.

"Everyone's case load is just significant and the work load, which is the expectations around that work load, are significant as well," Kisling said.

She told Clark County leaders on Tuesday at a board meeting that she's not getting the support she needs. 

"I think I was unaware of some of their specific concerns that were presented at the board meeting. We knew that the caseloads had been an ongoing issue of concern both for staff as well as department management," said Lisa Ruiz-Lee, DFS director.

She says she's had several meetings with union representatives where issues like caseload numbers weren't brought to her attention.

"If there's any issues that really need to be discussed at my level, my door is always open," Ruiz-Lee said.

She does acknowledge employees have been faced with nearly record-high numbers of investigations.

"Caseloads have gone up over the last two years. We've seen a 37 percent increase in the number of children that we're servicing in CPS. That is where my greatest concern is," she said.

DFS caseworkers have a caseload with many as 18 to 25 kids which is higher than what's recommended for best practices.

Clark County addressed that issue in May when it authorized an additional 47 DFS positions and three new investigative units. Commissioner Susan Brager has now been appointed to sit on a committee exploring what's going on at DFS.

"Getting true facts are really important. Sometimes in the heat of passion, you are getting kind of mixed stories," Brager said.

In the meantime, Ruiz-Lee says she will implement suggestions from caseworkers that make sense for children and families.

SEIU Nevada spokesperson, Rebecca Theim, told 8 News NOW by phone, that DFS management has been aware for months about the concerns many employees have about the department's operations. Among union members' goals are responsible case loads, better coordination with community partners including law enforcement and mental health professionals, and staff input into policies and procedures that will enable the department to better serve children and families.


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