FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - Some Kentucky children in need of the most help aren’t getting as much support as they should be, according to the arguments behind part of Gov. Andy Beshear’s budget proposal.
Beshear said his goal is to decrease the load overworked social workers are currently facing by hiring 350 more of them to work for the Department of Community Based Services.
Beshear renewed his calls to fund the proposal while he was visiting with social workers in Louisville Friday.
Funding for that would have to be approved in the state budget, which lawmakers are working on now.
Beshear said legislators have yet to specifically commit to this piece of the budget, but he has had positive discussions with them about it.
Department officials estimate that if all the positions were filled, case loads per social worker would fall closer to the national average of 15 to 18 cases.
Currently, in Kentucky, the agency’s average case load is double that, around 30, and, in Louisville specifically, it’s even higher, sometimes at 80 cases per social worker.
Workers said that means they have to focus on the children who need the most dire help, which leaves others in need of services and at risk of becoming more extreme cases.
“A child at the hospital with broken bones versus the 6-year-old that’s not going to school,” Amanda Crowell, a Jefferson County social worker, said. “You have to kind of weigh that, where nonetheless the family needs services.”
Questions raised about the proposal included how to retain workers, which the department admits is already a challenge.
Crowell said people inquire about jobs at the department weekly. Beshear said improving conditions also will help reduce turnover.
He also said he is confident the department can fill the positions, while others in the state claim Kentucky has a social worker shortage, and other agencies and the private sector offer more desirable wages.
Beshear said he hopes his proposed raises for state workers will make the jobs more desirable.