Staffing levels at CPS a concern

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OBSERVER Photo by Gregory Bacon
Amanda Christy, a CPS worker in Chautauqua County, expresses concerns regarding staffing levels, turnover and stress in her department.

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MAYVILLE — Some Chautauqua County employees who work with the most vulnerable people in the county are feeling stressed and burned out.

During the December county Legislature meeting, Amanda Christy, a Child Protective Services caseworker, expressed some of her concerns about staffing levels. “To date, CPS workers in Chautauqua County have been assigned 2,199 reports of suspected abuse or maltreatment this year alone from the state,” she said, adding that the number does not reflect subsequent reports, which are generated during an open investigation.

Christy said many of the staff lack experience. “CPS has dealt with multiple vacancies at all times. Currently there are 25 CPS caseworkers, with only 16, or 64% of current staff, having over two years of experience,” she said.

Currently there are six vacancies in the department. “This number is 20% of our allocated workforce,” she said.

Christy added that turnover continues to be high. “Since my hire date in 2019, 33 staff members have left child protection,” she said. “Of those, 52% of those discontinued their employment with the county. Additionally, the department as a whole has struggled to recruit qualified individuals to sign up and take the caseworker Civil Service examination.”

According to Christy, there’s no active list available to hire CPS caseworkers and the next test is not being offered until the spring.

Christy said even if someone is provisionally hired before they take the test, it generally takes six to seven months for them to become trained.

Oftentimes, CPS will invest in someone to train them, only to have them quit and take a job with better pay, benefits, less stress and more consistent work hours. “The county has been unable to maintain wages, corresponding with rising minimal wages, current inflation and the experience levels and skill set necessary to work with our most vulnerable population in the county,” she said.

Christy said fieldwork for CPS workers can be difficult, especially when they find clients deceased, or see children who are severely injured, disfigured and traumatized.

“Caseworkers interact in the homes of families with caretakers and parents who are struggling with substance abuse, mental health disorders often undiagnosed, violent behaviors, gang affiliation, domestic violence and criminal behavior,” she said.

Christy called on the county to address their concerns “with creative solutions for improvements related to recruitment and retention.”

After she spoke, CPS Supervisor John Sedota addressed the legislature. He has been with the department for 28 years and added that, over the past year, things have improved.

He applauded the current commissioner and county executive. “The staff do appreciate a lot of the changes made recently. We have had a lot of challenges over the years and I think we’re going to continue to have a lot of those challenges,” he said.

Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon thanked Christy and Sedota for their comments as well as their service in the county.

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Staffing levels at CPS a concern

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