Employment as a caseworker with the Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth and Families is far more than just a job.
It’s far more than just removing children from homes. This is an important fact to understand because lay people often equate caseworkers with removal of children. The mental picture is often that if a pensive looking White woman hovering in the background clutching her purse while two brutish looking police officers are tearing a screaming toddler who is kicking and flailing out of the arms of a cursing screaming wailing mother.
While that work does involve protecting children from abuse and neglect, it also involves strengthening families who are involved in child welfare in Allegheny County. The overall purpose and goal is to “fix” families, restore them, and to make the family environment a whole and healthy one for all concerned, with a focus on the children.
What is true about the job are a few things shared by some caseworkers featured in a video on the DHS web site: Elise Royster, intake specialist said, “This is not a straight 9–5 job; it’s not like you come in at 9 a.m., get to your desk do your work then get up and leave.
“Everyday is different; many times you have to be prepared to respond to emergencies; and your “office” is not always your office. You may be in court, you may be conducting some kind of community meeting and certainly you may be driving around. Driving around can be a big part of the Case Worker’s job.”
The DHS is currently working to increase its visibility and is engaging an ongoing process of recruiting new caseworkers. An important aspect of the recruitment of new caseworkers is first to remove the myths surrounding the job, one being that caseworkers have upwards of 50 caseloads each—this is not at all the true, said Lisa Ford who handles many administrative matters around the work of CYF.
“It was many, many years ago when we were looking at those numbers, at this point it is much lower, like 15-20,” Ford said.