For years, Northampton County has been plagued by caseworker vacancies in Children, Youth and Families (CYF). Without question, this is a stressful job with a high burnout rate. But according to county Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski, an underfunded and understaffed state civil service commission has made things worse. As a result, Executive Lamont McClure will soon ask Council to approve a resolution opting out of civil service.
To illustrate the problem, Wandalowski said at last week's Human Services Committee meeting that there are 13 caseworker vacancies in CYF. Yet it took the state civil service commission two months to provide a list of caseworker applicants. When it finally did, it contained only three names.
When NorCo asked for more names, civil service provided a list of 80 people who had filled out parts of the application, and suggested the county contact them directly. The county did, and learned that list was fraught with errors. Some of the people identified had not only taken the test, but were already working as caseworkers.
Pennsylvania's Civil Service Commission administers the hiring system for 37 state agencies employing nearly 57,000 civil service employees.
Caseworker vacancies in CYF can mean the difference between life and death for some abused or neglected children, so Wandalowski wants to opt out of civil service and do the hiring in-house. This has already happened in Berks and Bucks Counties, she said. According to The Sentinel, Cumberland County is currently in the process of withdrawing from the state civil service commission because of similar difficulties in filling vacancies. The state civil service commission, Wandalowski said, is actually encouraging counties to opt out so long as career service regulations are in place.
Wandalowski estimates the process will probably take a year.
"If it sounds too good to be true, sometimes it is," cautioned Council Prez Ron Heckman. He told Wandalowski he'd want to hear from counties that have opted out before making a decision.