LA County Social Workers Strike Over Caseloads

Contract negotiations stalled over reducing caseloads for workers and hiring new social workers

By Andrew Lopez and John Cadiz Klemack
|  Thursday, Dec 5, 2013  |  Updated 8:37 PM PDT
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Hundreds of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services workers walked out on their jobs on to protest the shortage of social workers handling child safety cases. John Cádiz Klemack reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.

John Cádiz Klemack

Hundreds of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services workers walked out on their jobs on to protest the shortage of social workers handling child safety cases. John Cádiz Klemack reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.

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Thousands of Los Angeles County children's social workers walked off the job Thursday in a protest over management that they claim puts children at risk and unfair labor practices.

Some 1,600 of the more than 3,000 social workers within the Department of Children and Family Services walked off the job for the demonstration.

Contract negotiations stalled this week after an agreement could not be made to reduce the social worker-to-child ratios, and to hire more workers, employees said.

“We're going to keep advocating for these kids,” said Chychy Ekeochah, a social worker and chair of the employees’ bargaining team. “They deserve the best possible care and service - and we want to be able to provide it."

Employees proposed that the county commit to hiring a total of 595 new social workers over the course of 17 months. They also proposed that social workers carry an average caseload of 21 children by 2015, as opposed to 31 children at a time.

Some 100 new social workers are expected to have a full caseload by next month and another 150 new social workers are expected to be at full capacity by July and August of next year, according to the head of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

An additional 150 to 200 potential social workers are slated for training in April.

Director Philip Browning said those new hires should bring down caseloads countywide to a manageable 24 cases per social worker.

But some DCFS workers are skeptical. Social worker Jasmine Chavarria said the recommended caseload is 14 to 16 children per worker, but they "routinely go over that."

Strikes were scheduled to take place in more than 15 locations, including Pasadena, West LA, Chatsworth and Santa Clarita.

Not everyone at the picket line Thursday was a social worker. The protest was a union-sponsored event and they've touted solidarity across the board.

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