Arkansas Child Welfare Experts Say State has Staffing Problem

OCTOBER 31, 2005 - Posted at 7:51 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A state agency report says staffing shortages are keeping Arkansas's child welfare system struggling to meet its goals.  The report found that falling behind in completing abuse and neglect investigations can delay family services, court action and clearing names of the accused.

The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Children and Family Services submitted the quarterly report to legislators.  It details agency efforts to recruit more staff, shift empty positions to needed areas and find new, faster ways for caseworkers to manage their loads.

Statistics show caseworker vacancies have grown significantly since 2002 when 54 caseworkers positions out of 572 were vacant.  As of October 1, there were 131 caseworker positions out of 540 vacant.

Members of the House Committees on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs and the Senate Interim Committee on Children and Youth called the report distressing and disappointing.  They said they were worried about how the job vacancies would affect children in the long term.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)