Virginia Beach filled important child-welfare jobs with cheaper contract workers

Posted at 11:50 PM, Mar 06, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-07 06:29:45-05

Virginia Beach, Va. - Braxton Taylor's last months were bad ones, abused by a troubled foster mother.

The child-welfare workers, saddled with too many cases, missed the signs and let him stay with the woman who later killed him. A NewsChannel 3 investigation into the failing system sparked a state review.

One finding was Virginia Beach filled too many important child-welfare jobs with cheaper contract workers, not full-time employees.

Deputy City Manager Cindy Curtis was appointed to fix the city's broken child-welfare system. This week, she told City Council child-welfare workers need a year of training, but contract workers stayed on the job an average of just 11 months. They were a cheaper option, but the turnover has hurt the agency.

"At a point in time they were probably looking at caseloads and said we can bring these on, do it at a lower cost, still provide the same level of service. Unfortunately in the long term, that didn't work," says Curtis.

Because they didn't get benefits, many left for other jobs, she said. Curtis wants the seven remaining contract jobs switched to full-time city positions.

"If we stay with contractual workers, I would agree with you we're on a treadmill. If we move to full-time staff, we're stepping off the treadmill. We're believing we'll get the stability this program deserves," says Curtis.

City Council has to approve this because hiring seven full-time workers will be more costly. She believes Council will agree because the risk of not fixing the agency, as we've seen, is just too high.


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