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The Past, Present, & Future of CWA DYFS Workers. We Fight For Children and For Our Rights Together!. Before CWA, DYFS Workers earned poverty wages.

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the past present future of cwa dyfs workers

The Past, Present, & Future ofCWA DYFS Workers

We Fight

For Children and

For Our Rights


before cwa dyfs workers earned poverty wages
Before CWA, DYFS Workers earned poverty wages
  • In 1979, DYFS workers were represented by an employee “association” and they earned $9,500 a year and carried average caseloads of 60-100 children.
  • Some caseloads were as high as 140 children!
union professionalism more
Union = Professionalism + More $
  • CWA became the Union for DYFS workers and 30,000 other State Workers in 1981.
  • By 1985 CWA represented professional DYFS Workers, were earning between $22,500 and $38,150/year and workers had a new title series that emphasized our work with


dyfs worker scapegoat
DYFS Worker = Scapegoat
  • For as many years as we can remember, Management has tried to blame workers when the public learns about a tragedy involving a child.
  • But when DYFS workers have fought back, we have stopped the scapegoating of workers for systemic problems.
  • And by fighting back – we have improved not only working conditions – we have improved services to children and families.
1987 dyfs strike

In 1987, when Dyneekah Johnson was murdered while in the care of a para-foster parent, the Commissioner and DYFS Director held an 11 a.m. press conference in Trenton publicly denouncing seven Essex county DYFS staff and implementing discipline before conducting an investigation. By noon, Essex county DYFS workers walked out.

the day of rage
The Day of Rage
  • By late afternoon, three counties joined the walk out.
  • By the next morning, 6 counties were out.
  • By the time management withdrew the discipline pending investigation in the afternoon, all 6 counties in South Jersey were poised to walk.
mobilization works
  • In 1990, Gov. Florio announced a statewide hiring freeze. Caseloads were already crushing.
  • If vacancies were not filled, children would die.
  • CWA Mobilized and demanded that vacancies be filled.
  • With workers on the street fighting and exposing the danger of the hiring freeze, the Governor caved and the freeze was lifted for DYFS.
dyfs worker jailed for lack of placement
  • In the 1990s, there were no resources. Workers and supervisors would sometimes spend all night looking for placements, begging foster parents to just take in one more.
  • At 4:30 p.m. on a Friday, a worker was called at the Elizabeth Office and told that a Judge had demanded that she instantly produce a foster care placement. The worker answered that she had no placement. (The child was an adolescent fire starter.) The Judge found the DYFS worker in contempt. The police were dispatched, they arrested the worker and put her in jail! No one was even told where she was. She was even strip searched and placed in the general population over a weekend.
  • Another worker called CWA Friday afternoon. We called but could not find Management or get any information to get her out of jail. Over the weekend, all DYFS stewards were called and CWA notified Management that if one of our members was in jail – none of us was working. By mid-morning, Management had her released.
  • For the first time ever, CWA shop stewards had a meeting with Family Court judges to stop the threats and stop the abuse.
solidarity safety on the job
Solidarity = SAFETY ON THE JOB
  • In 1992, a worker was held hostage by a client for many hours and her life was at risk.
  • CWA demanded new safety measures. Management at first would not agree, but Members signed a list of demands and vowed to walk of the job if Management wouldn’t agree.
  • New worker safety measures, including the right to a “Buddy”, were instituted. (In fact, we think that the CWA Contract is the only place in the country that provides Child Protective Services workers with a buddy.)
  • 1996: The State proposes a plan to allow private agencies to do DYFS work. Workers mobilize and the plan dies.
studies reports committees workers demand action
Studies, Reports, Committees – Workers Demand Action!
  • In 1997, the Governor formed a Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Protection Services. Public hearings were held.
  • DYFS workers staged mock funerals and walked to the meetings dressed in black, carrying a casket for young abuse victims. DYFS workers showed up en mass to lobby for casework reforms that would enable them to adequately protect children. They spoke out; telling their story made the panel see the real conditions and the need for reform.
  • 1998: The Blue Ribbon Panel released a report recommending caseloads reductions and many other resources for workers be made available.
  • Management did little with the report – but DYFS Workers continued the fight!
cwa shop stewards meet privately with children s rights
CWA Shop Stewards Meet Privately with Children’s Rights
  • Children’s Rights, a nationwide watchdog group, contacted CWA in 1999. CR was preparing to sue the State of NJ on behalf of 11,000 children in foster care.
  • CWA shop stewards met with the CR lawyers and provided them with information and assistance in filing the Charlie and Nadine v. NJ lawsuit.
the caseload ratio bill
The Caseload Ratio Bill
  • 2000: The caseloads were crushing and children were at grave risk. CWA went to friendly legislators and persuaded them to put in legislation creating a caseload ratio and increasing DYFS funding.
  • For over a year, workers mobilized through lobbying, rallies, and telling their stories to the press.
  • We were finally successful in getting an appropriation that added 400 new workers – BUT – caseload caps were removed from the legislation.
  • But Management OPPOSED the Bill. Charles Venti, the DYFS Director testified against caseload caps.
dyfs workers fight for families at risk
DYFS Workers Fight for Families At Risk
  • The Union continued to push for a caseload cap throughout the 2000s. We had a 5 Point Plan for Reform:
    • Caseload Caps
    • More Resources
    • More Placements
    • More Training
    • Technology
  • Management continued to misrepresent caseload sizes, taking all the cases together and dividing them by every person employed by DYFS.
rome is burning
Rome Is Burning
  • In 2003, CWA published “Rome is Burning” a report of direct information from workers that proved that children were at grave risk.
  • This report outlined the immediate risk to children under DYFS supervision and provided recommendation to the urgent situation.
cwa members mourn faheem
CWA Members Mourn Faheem
  • In January 2003, two little boys were found locked in a basement in Newark. They were badly abused and said that they had not seen their 7 year old brother Faheem for weeks.
  • Faheem’s remains were found in a plastic box.
  • Faheem and his brothers were DYFS cases – but their case was closed without their ever having been seen.
who you going to blame
Who You Going to Blame?
  • The Governor, the Commissioner, all tried to immediately blame the worker and the supervisor.
  • But CWA learned that the worker had 105 children on her caseload and that she was ORDERED to close the case by a Regional Administrator in order to keep the caseloads down.
  • We held a press conference and handed out the documents that Management was trying to hide.
faheem died but he saved other children
Faheem Died – but he Saved Other Children
  • Faheem’s death caused outrage throughout New Jersey, and this time, no one was willing to believe that it was the fault of workers – and not a system that allowed for caseloads of 105.
  • The State of New Jersey SETTLED with Children’s Rights and DYFS Reform began.
a starved dyfs led to starving children
A Starved DYFS led to Starving Children
  • In October, 2003, a starving child was found picking through the garbage. The Jackson family adopted four children through DYFS and years later they were found to have almost starved to death – none weighed more than 45 pounds.
  • Management reacted true to form and disciplined 9 Workers without an investigation.
  • The Camden County prosecutor threatened to prosecute the workers!
  • But the workers knew what Management was hiding – that Management had suspended the requirement for medical exams of all children in a house during an adoption. Hundreds of workers rallied demanding that the full system be investigated.
  • When the Child Advocate fully investigated the case, he found gross SYSTEMIC failures and the workers were returned to their jobs.
dyfs reform and the court
DYFS Reform and The Court
  • When the State of New Jersey agreed to a settlement of the Children’s Rights case – CWA did something historic.
  • The Settlement Agreement had to go before the Court – which was supervising the DYFS Reform.
  • CWA filed a request with the Court to become an Amicus – A Friend of the Court – and for the first time, a Union was an official party to the lawsuit.
  • All of the materials and information that CWA Shop Stewards had gathered over all of the years, became part of the court file, and DYFS worker recommendations for reform became part of what the Judge reviewed.
cwa joins the dyfs reform panel
CWA Joins the DYFS Reform Panel
  • A panel of Child Advocates from the Annie E. Casey Foundation was assembled to oversee the DYFS reform plan.
  • The Human Services Commissioner tried to keep CWA out. There were plans to privatize our jobs as part of DYFS reform.
  • CWA went directly to the Panel and to Children’s Rights. They knew that our members had spent 20 years fighting for DYFS Reform.
  • THE PANEL insisted that the Department of Human Service NEGOTIATE with CWA caseload caps and protection of our work.
principles of agreement
Principles of Agreement

The Principles of Agreement drew national attention to the plight of NJ children & their protective service workers.

  • Intake workers: No more than 8 new investigations a month, no more than 12 ongoing investigations.
  • Permanency workers: No more than 25 children per worker with no more than 10 children in out-of-home placements.
  • Protections against privatization.
dyfs workers made the difference
  • CWA DYFS Workers’ 20 year battle for caps on caseloads brought national attention to the plight of New Jersey children and their protective service workers.
  • This ultimately resulted in the allocation of $320 million in additional funding to DYFS under the DYFS Reform demanded by the Children’s Rights lawsuit.
  • DYFS Reform and the MSA entered into with Children’s Rights, Inc., requires strict adherence to caseload size limits.
up to their old tricks hiding cases
Up to their Old Tricks – Hiding Cases
  • In 2005, a Deputy Director was fired and a District Office Manager and an Assistant Regional Administrator were disciplined for “hiding” children behind non-caseload carrying titles and/or manipulating statistics in order to give the appearance of compliance with caseload caps.
  • Management continues to use methods to misrepresent caseload sizes after the reform bill was passed.
cwa stands for children
CWA Stands for Children
  • When we stand up for ourselves at DYFS – we are standing up for children and families.
  • More and more – Management is up to its old tricks – intimidation, hiding cases, and blaming workers.
how can we do it again
How Can we Do it Again?
  • Solidarity – DYFS workers can’t stand up by themselves. We have to stand together.
  • FACTS – We have to know what’s happening if we are going to change it. That means gathering real facts and data that has been checked.
  • Don’t go along to get along – DYFS workers don’t do this work just for a paycheck. We do it because we believe that children should be safe at home, and we believe that families should get the help and services that they need. Don’t close cases that should stay open. Fight for services for kids. Document your views.
  • Don’t let management use you to falsify caseloads. Keep records and report what is happening to your steward/CWA Staff Rep.
  • Mobilize. Hold meetings. Plan protests. Speak out.