Severe backlog of child abuse cases reported in Milwaukee Bureau

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by Sandra Torres

MILWAUKEE-- The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families reports they have a backlog of about 2,400 cases in its Milwaukee Bureau.

Organizations like the Wisconsin Council on Social Education and others call it a crisis and will be addressing the issues at a public hearing on Friday, July 25th at the Milwaukee Bureau.

"I'm very concerned that we are at that tipping point,"said Michael Wallace, President of WCSE. Adding that "theres a great deal of turnover in initial assesment they're having issues with retention..."

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families say it's aware of the backlog. In a statement, they said, "[They] have taken significant measures to reduce it, including; creating a team of backlog reduction specialists to complete investigations, and hired a team of national child welfare experts to assist in the backlog reduction.  It is important to note that the backlog consists only of cases where it has been determined children are not in current or imminent danger. If current or imminent danger is feared, the case receives an immediate response"

The department insists this is not a Milwaukee issue, it's a national issue. They report that the turnover rate in Milwaukee falls in line with the national rate.

"The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the annual turnover rate for Child Welfare investigation workers is 30 to 40 percent, and the average time spent working in the field is less than 2 years," according to the statement by WDCF.

State Representative LaTonya Johnson, who represents the 17th district Assembly, will be at the public hearing on Friday. Johnson says she understands the reasons why there is a backlog, but something needs to be done.

 "The system can't afford to fail its kids because theres nothing left after the bureau," said Rep, Johnson.

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