More than 50% of Milwaukee child welfare workers charged with monitoring abused and neglected children quit their jobs last year – possibly the highest turnover rate in the country – according to new reviews of the state-run system.
The reviews also raise questions about whether too many children in danger of being hurt are being denied services, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Child welfare advocates point to drastically reduced referrals to a program aimed at keeping children safe in their own homes and said they are concerned about whether abusive families are being inappropriately screened out of the system at the front door.
“This report just substantiates all my personal observations,” said County Supervisor Roger Quindel, who is also a member of the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council, a child welfare system advisory board. “The state is under a lot of pressure not to put money into the system.”
Problems cited in the state’s own reviews include a lack of collaboration between case managers, who sometimes failed to identify mental health problems or domestic violence that put children in harm’s way, and incomplete assessments of family needs in more than half of the cases referred for abuse and neglect investigations.
“We take this very seriously,” said Denise Revels Robinson, director of the state-run Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. “Clearly the reports raise some concerns. Each area reviewed had strengths but also indicated we have more work to do.”
The periodic reviews done by the bureau are required as part of the 2002 settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by the New York-based group Children’s Rights Inc. The lawsuit alleged that the foster care system in Milwaukee County routinely failed to protect children. The state took over Milwaukee County’s child welfare system in 1998 in response to the lawsuit.
The latest reports were released last week, just months after Wisconsin was notified that it was the 43rd state to fail a federal review of its foster care system statewide. Milwaukee County was also part of that review.