One in four caseworkers eventually leave CYFD | KOB 4
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One in four caseworkers eventually leave CYFD

Jen French
May 07, 2018 10:14 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s a tough job to protect children. It's almost as challenging to find the right people willing to do the job.

More than one in 10 protective services caseworker positions at New Mexico Children Youth and Family Department is unfilled, partly because the state only funds current staffing. Turnover, however, may be the bigger obstacle. One in four investigators ends up quitting and having to be replaced. 

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"The biggest challenge is the work is incredibly difficult. It's emotionally draining," CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson said. "Our workers are dealing with significant secondary trauma.

"We are really focused on is having a better recruitment plan in place."

Jacobson said over the past couple of years, CYFD has recruited qualified graduates from New Mexico colleges and even offered student loan repayment. Still, there is a 12 percent vacancy rate for protective services field workers statewide. 

It's an improvement from three years ago when the field worker vacancy rate was 24 percent across the state.

Jacobson admits the agency doesn't actively recruit out-of-state college graduates, but that could change. CYFD hired a director of training and recruitment six months ago to help streamline the hiring process.

According to the state's website, there are more than 100 job openings at CYFD. Sixty-three of the openings are specifically protective services investigation caseworker positions. Jacobson said the state anticipates turnover, so it's always hiring. 

Too many changes may have been a contributing factor when no one took action after 21 referrals against mother Teri Sanchez and 14 referrals against father James Stewart were made for allegedly abusing their three children since 2004. Four caseworkers who were actively investigating the pair have been put on paid administrative leave for allegedly failing to take action.

Because Sanchez and Stewart's file goes back 14 years, Jacobson said it's likely other caseworkers viewed the family’s history yet failed to take action."We have been very focused on reducing turnover at the agency because we do know that's an issue when you don't have consistency,” Jacobson said.

Pending a CYFD investigation, more state employees who failed to act in Sanchez and Stewart’s lengthy case may be disciplined.

Jacobson said that whenever a family has more than three referrals, it is visible on CYFD’s database and is supposed to receive heightened attention.

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Jen French

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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