NAGE has launched a pointed ad campaign calling on the Department of Children and Families to provide relief to DCF attorneys who carry more than double the caseload recommended by the American Bar Association.
"The current situation creates a clear and present danger to the children entrusted to the care of DCF," said National President David J. Holway. "The only solution is to hire additional attorneys sufficient to dramatically reduce the current caseloads."
NAGE placed a color half-page ad May 8th in the heavily circulated Metro newspaper that shows a young boy clutching a stuffed bear and the plea to DCF to "Hire enough attorneys ... Because abused kids deserve to stay safe." A poignant radio ad began playing Monday at 6:48 a.m. and 8:16 a.m. on 1030 AM (WBZ radio) and will run through Thursday. That ad also draws attention to the staggering caseload of the attorneys and the danger it presents to the children they represent.
The Standards of Practice of the American Bar Association for lawyers representing child welfare agencies recommends a maximum caseload of 60 cases. According to the DCF’s own Attorney Workload Statistical Report for February 2013, the average caseload for DCF attorneys is 126, more than twice the recommended standard.
One DCF attorney had 158 cases with 15 trials and 12 motions/reviews in February alone. Two have caseloads exceeding 200. Another attorney was assigned 199 cases. Nine attorney have caseloads higher than 150. With caseload numbers at such stratospheric levels, NAGE believes the notion that all such cases are being properly serviced is an illusion.
While the number of attorneys representing DCF has remained stagnant, the number of specialized fulltime attorneys representing the other side has exploded with the dramatic expansion of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). DCF attorneys are routinely in court facing CPCS attorneys whose caseloads are a mere fraction of their own. Attorneys, as officers of the court, are ethically bound not to take on more work than they can responsibly handle.
Before launching the ad campaign, NAGE met with DCF Acting Commissioner Olga Roche and proposed the hiring of additional attorneys. That meeting concluded without an adequate resolution, prompting NAGE to go forward with the campaign to draw the public's attention to the dire situation.