July 17, 2009
County Legislature Approves Plan to Make Our Child Protective Services the Best
The County Legislature took the first steps in a long-range plan to strengthen the county's child protective services at our July meeting. The Legislature's action supports the work plan developed by Cornell University and the Social Services staff.
The Legislature accepted a $500,000 grant from New York State to create 38 new positions in the Department of Social Services. The additional staff will bring caseworkers' workload in line with the recommended State standard of 72 cases per worker per year. Caseworkers are currently carrying caseloads of 139, double the recommended standard.
Legislators approved the new staffing positions with the understanding that the workers' caseloads will be closely monitored, and staffing will be reduced and adjusted if the number of child abuse reports declines.
The action supports the reorganization plan developed by Commissioner Frances Lanigan and the state Department of Social Services, and will bring forth many of the recommendations contained in Cornell University's process review for child protective services. Commissioner Lanigan requested the review following the death of Erin Maxwell in August 2008.
The additional staffing is the first, but not the only step, in the department's reorganization. There will be more in-depth training of new and current staff, supervisory and management procedures will be reorganized and improved, and a community advisory board is being established to improve collaboration and communication between DSS and its many partners in the community. More emphasis will be placed on using technology and other tools that will make the use of caseworkers' time more efficient and productive.
In other action at the July meeting, the County Legislature adopted a resolution that gives county governments the authority to extend their sales tax collections without going through the State Legislature. Oswego and many other counties were held up by the state Senate deadlock last month waiting for permission to extend the county sales tax. We were very concerned about the impact on our local revenues. The county stood to lose $18 million of this year's sales tax revenue if the Senate did not act on our bill. After a month of delays and inability to act, the Senate finally approved our request late last week.
Legislators named Carol Alnutt, a long-time manager in the County Personnel Department, as Director of Personnel, replacing Maureen Sullivan who retired last month. In a related matter, they reclassified three positions in the Personnel Department to reorganize oversight of civil service and employee benefit programs.
In other matters, the Legislature
The Legislature's next meeting will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse in Pulaski.
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