EATON — Becky Sorrell, Director of Preble County Job and Family Services, met with the new Preble County Board of Commissioners during their Wednesday, Jan. 27 meeting to discuss JFS’s struggles to hire new staff.
Sorrell has been conducting interviews to fill Children’s Services caseworker positions, and of a recent group of 10 applicants, five did not even show up for interviews.
“We’re really struggling with getting these caseworker positions filled. We’ve posted on Indeed multiple times. I get lots of interest, but not people who are qualified for the job,” Sorrell said. “I have contacted Miami, UC, Wright State, IU East. I’ve posted on their boards. I’ve talked with the state, Ohio Means Jobs posts the job. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to recruit staff for that. We are in a staffing crisis in children’s services.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve said for months and months and months to the state and to everybody who listen,” she said. “We will have a child injury or death in Preble County, and it will be because we don’t have enough staff to do the work.”
Sorrell said that beyond recruiting staff, it is also difficult to retain staff due to the nature of the job.
“A lot of the difficulty of the job, while you would think it is the trauma – that is for some people the problem, the trauma – but really, it’s the system,” she said. “The way the rules are set and what the demands are from the state for the workers to do.”
She cited one caseworker in November who had to make 70 face-to-face contacts over approximately 18 working days – nearly four per day.
“That wasn’t the only thing she had to do,” Sorrell said. “She had to go to court, she had to do semi-annual reviews, which in the system take a minimum of four hours to complete. She had to have meetings with families. I mean, it was impossible to do that job.”
Additionally, the drive time can be a further hindrance to caseworkers.
“Most of our children are not placed in Preble County, and therefore the drive time also contributes to the work,” Sorrell said. “I have offered them up to 10 hours of overtime in order to get their work done, and I still have to tell them that they cannot clock out and continue working. They really want to get [work] done, they really want to serve the families, but it’s not possible with their caseloads.”
Sorrell said that even if they can begin hiring staff, it will take a minimum of six months for them to complete training and get brought up to speed to begin carrying a caseload.
“I just want to make you aware that it is a crisis, and I’m very concerned about it,” she stressed to the commissioners. “It keeps me up nights and it is the biggest concern I have about the agency.”
In other business
In December, there were 246 recipients of Ohio Works First cash payments, the majority of which were children.
For food assistance, which includes SNAP, EBT cards, food stamps, etc., there were 3,966 recipients in Preble County, the majority of which were adults.
JFS collected $6,405,588.56 in child support in 2020.
“Which is really exceptional considering a lot of folks got laid off,” Sorrell said. “We were able to continue to get those payments in and support those children and make sure obligations were met.”
The Preble County Board of Commissioners meet every Monday and Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Preble County Courthouse. These meetings are open to the public.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles