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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Published: Monday, 3/3/2008

Tracking caseworkers

FLORIDA'S child-welfare workers should have seen it coming. After foster children that some caseworkers claimed they had visited turned up missing or dead, new technology has been developed that will allow the workers' bosses to know where the workers are at all times.

Some caseworkers may resent being forced to carry a tracking device on the job. But the handheld devices, similar to those that delivery companies use to track packages, also should provide a sense of safety to caseworkers.

Besides tracking the caseworkers, the book-sized devices, which are equipped with cameras, will let workers update records of children's cases on the spot and alert supervisors if no home visit is recorded for 31 days.

All this is happening because Florida headlined the nation in child-welfare cases in which workers lied about making home visits. It's an appropriate reaction to ensure accountability, cut down on paperwork, and protect kids.

In one case, Rilya Wilson, 4, had been missing for 15 months before authorities knew she was gone. The child's caregiver was charged with murder. The caseworker, who lied about visiting the child's home, was fired and was given probation after a guilty plea to official misconduct.

The tracking devices will allow for better communication and coordination between law-enforcement and child-welfare agencies. Case workers will be able to type home-visit information directly into a state database, and they won't have to prepare separate reports later. This is especially important because more than half the time a caseworker puts into the job is spent on filing paperwork.

Depending on how well the Florida system works, other states might well be interested in considering similar technology. The whole point is to protect foster children and prevent them from slipping through cracks in the system, whether it's because of human error or workers slacking off on the job.



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