CHAPTER 475

FORMERLY

SENATE BILL NO. 142

AS AMENDED BY SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 2 AND

HOUSE AMENDMENT NO. 2

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 29, CHAPTER 90 RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF SERVICES FOR CHILDREN YOUTH AND THEIR FAMILIES.

WHEREAS, in order for the State of Delaware to ensure the protection of children from abuse and neglect, the Division of Family Services is mandated by law to accept reports of child abuse and neglect, immediately investigate and provide treatment to families and children where child abuse and neglect is founded; and,

WHEREAS, the number of backlogged investigation cases, defined as cases not completed within 45 days of a report of abuse or neglect, averaged over 40% of all investigation cases in Fiscal Year 1996 and 30% of all investigation cases in Fiscal Year 1997 to date despite the Division's best efforts to reduce such backlog; and,

WHEREAS, the number of cases assigned to caseworkers at the Division of Family Services averaged 30 in investigation and 26 in treatment during Fiscal Year 1996, and averaged 28 in investigation and 25 in treatment during the first nine months of Fiscal Year 1997; and,

WHEREAS, the Child Welfare League of America, an organization whose mission is to develop programs and policies to effectively protect children in potentially dangerous situations, has recommended the following caseload standards: one child protection investigation worker to twelve cases for investigation, one child protection treatment worker to seventeen cases for treatment, and one supervisor for every five workers; and

WHEREAS, the State of Delaware has adopted the following caseload standards based on the Child Welfare League of America and Delaware's unique geographical and population characteristics: one child protection investigation worker per fourteen cases under investigation; one child protection treatment worker per eighteen cases in treatment; and one supervisor for every five child protection workers; and

WHEREAS, in order to effectively protect children from abuse and neglect, and to prevent the long-term effects of abuse and neglect, the Division of Family Services needs sufficient Family Services Specialists to provide appropriate and timely investigations and treatment interventions; and,

WHEREAS, the demand for, child care outside the home continues to grow and is critically important for families today; and,

WHEREAS, the size of caseloads to license and monitor child care facilities in Delaware is almost double the national standard putting children at higher risk of harm or abuse; and,

WHEREAS, the National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends licensing standards to prevent harm and abuse of children in child care with the following caseload standards: one Licensing Specialist for every 50 child care centers and one Licensing Specialist for every 150 new family child care homes; and,

WHEREAS, Delaware's licensing specialists carry caseloads that include both child care centers and family child care homes and Delaware has set its caseload standards at 140 cases per licensing specialist, plus or minus 15 percent; and,

WHEREAS, the Federal recommended standard is one Licensing Specialist for every 30 24-hour residential child care facilities; and,

WHEREAS, the caseloads for Family Service and Licensing Specialists in the Division of Family Services have exceeded these nationally recommended standards for caseload size placing children at serious risk of harm; and,

WHEREAS, the State of Delaware has a critical role in the protection of children, it is the General Assembly's intent to codify caseload standards for social workers in the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, Division of Family Services and to provide the necessary staffing each year to effectively investigate child abuse, treat children and families when abuse or neglect is founded, and to protect children through effective licensing and monitoring of child care facilities.

NOW THEREFORE:

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1. Amend §9015, Chapter 90, Title 29 by inserting the following as subsection (b) and relettering the existing subsection (b) as subsection (c):

"(b) Each fiscal year, the Secretary and the State Budget Office shall agree on a methodology to develop projections of the number of child abuse and neglect cases and for the number of child care facilities to be licensed and monitored. Each fiscal year, those projections shall be presented to the General Assembly. Based upon these projections, the General Assembly shall fund, subject to a specific appropriation, funds and positions for the next fiscal year, beginning each July 1, to the Division of Family Services to provide: (1) an adequate number of full-time equivalent child protection investigation workers so that caseloads do not exceed the above enumerated Child Welfare League Standards by more than two cases; (2) an adequate number of full-time equivalent child protection treatment workers so that caseloads do not exceed the above enumerated Child Welfare League Standards by more than two cases; (3) an adequate number of Family Service Supervisors so that the supervisor to worker ratio does not exceed the above enumerated Child Welfare League Standards by more than two; (4) an adequate number of full-time licensing specialists to meet the above enumerated Delaware caseload standard of 140 cases per specialist, plus or minus 15 percent; (5) an adequate number of Licensing Specialists to meet or exceed the 1998 federal recommendations for 24-hour residential child care facilities; and (6) an adequate number of Licensing Supervisors based on the 1998 Child Welfare League of American national standards.

In the event that caseloads exceed projections by more than 10% during any fiscal year, the Budget Office shall, to the extent monies are available, authorize the use of casual seasonal positions as a temporary mechanism to ensure that caseloads remain within Delaware standards."

Approved July 17, 1998