Only one-fifth of DCF records are digitized, says DCF union chief

Lack of online records and basic tools like cellphones have workers concerned about safety

Peter MacKinnon, social worker and DCF president of SEIU Local 509, mades commenta at the State House on Monday, with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Governor Charlie Baker.
Peter MacKinnon, social worker and DCF president of SEIU Local 509, mades commenta at the State House on Monday, with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Governor Charlie Baker. –David Scharfenberg / The Boston Globe

The Department of Children and Families’s social workers have been asking for reforms since the 1980s, social worker and DCF’s union chapter president Peter MacKinnon told the Boston.com Morning Show.

Still, MacKinnon said, workers lack basic technology to help them out in the field.

“We can only access 20 percent of our case records from the fields,’’ he said. “Most of our database is still not available through the web—you have to be in the office to access it.’’

The department has purchased more mobile technology—it gave more than 2,000 iPads to its workers earlier this year, according to The Boston Globe—to allow frontline workers to obtain case documentation and emails remotely. But without that information available online, MacKinnon said, workers often need to make calls back to the office.

Advertisement

“We need to move quickly in the field because child safety is at risk,’’ he said. “It’s coming, but it’s slow.’’

About 85 percent of workers surveyed earlier this year said the biggest necessity is a DCF-issued cellphone, The Boston Globe reported. Without the privacy of a work phone, workers can be more vulnerable to dangerous situations. Case manager safety is a huge concern within the agency, MacKinnon said.

“We’re coming in with the threat and sometimes action of taking custody of your child. You cannot do anything more devastating to a family than that,’’ he said.

MacKinnon cited the recent tragedy in Vermont, where a caseworker was murdered by a client after the client lost custody of her 9-year-old daughter.

’’We’ve had one worker murdered here in Massachusetts in the mid ‘90s for doing the same thing,’’ MacKinnon said. “We’re lucky it’s only one.’’

Jump To Comments