Yesterday in Frankfort, Patricia Pregliasco, a Kentucky state social worker from Jefferson County, told a legislative committee that her fellow social service employees “are collapsing under the crushing caseloads.” “Workers are crying, they’re breaking down, they’re quitting,” said Pregliasco, “It is a crisis.”
Oh, the humanity! What do you think is the cause of Ms. Pregliasco’s sturm und drang? Was she upset because Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd just ordered the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to pay $16,550 in fines and $56,663 in legal costs to three newspapers for illegally withholding public records  involving child abuse deaths and serious injuries? Has the legislature finally declared social work a felony?
No, she was simply dissatisfied with the size of the slice of the pie her agency was going to get out of Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed budget. Tuesday evening, the governor proposed a $19.2 billion two-year spending plan that will slash appropriations to most state agencies by 8.4 percent. Kentucky is nearly broke, and sacrifices must be made.
But the folks over at CHFS needn’t worry; Gov. Beshear has proposed adding $21 million to the state social services department that would be used to hire 300 more workers.
Preglisasco complained to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that Kentucky social workers are handling an average of 40 or 50 cases at a time; “well above the 17 recommended under national accreditation standards.” But Teresa James, acting social services commissioner, told the committee that workers average only 18 to 20 cases each.
Kentucky’s state social workers are certainly poorly trained and poorly motivated, but they are hardly overworked. Hiding for years under what Judge Shepherd called “efforts to blanket the operation of the child welfare system under a veil of secrecy,” the bureaucratic bunglers at CHFS have been successful in keeping their incompetence from public view.
Recently, however, and thanks to the efforts of lawyers for Louisville’s Courier-Journal and Lexington’s Herald-Leader, that veil of secrecy is slowly being lifted. And the wizard behind the curtain is being seen as the bumbling fool he is.
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