Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE)
Contact Us / Meet the Staff
How to File a Discrimination / Sexual Harassment Complaint
How to Request a Reasonable Accommodation (ADA)
Policies and Procedures
Upward Mobility Program
THE ODE RESPONSIBILITIES:
The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) is under the direction of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner’s Office. The ODE is comprised of equal employment opportunity professionals consisting of an Equal Employment Opportunity Director and Equal Employment Opportunity Specialists. These equal employment opportunity professionals are mandated by Connecticut statutes to assist the DCF in its compliance with federal and state civil rights laws and other applicable civil rights mandates. See Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-68. This state law extends to every Connecticut state agency to ensure the State’s day-to-day business operations, practices and policies align with the intent of federal and state civil rights mandates.
Offering a civil rights compliance perspective, the ODE collaborates with the DCF’s administration in drafting, reviewing and implementing internal policies, procedures, and practices. Examples of the ODE’s collaboration with the DCF administration includes, but are not limited to:
- The ODE’s responsibility to mitigate a culture that harbors discrimination or sexual harassment by conducting independent, confidential and timely investigations of employee initiated complaints. As an independent finder of fact the ODE reports its investigatory findings and offers recommendations to the Commissioner’s Office for proper action.
- The ODE’s responsibility to proactively identify internal practices, policies and procedures that pose a barrier to DCF job applicants and employees who are members of protected classes. If any barriers are found, it is the ODE’s responsibility to formulate practical recommendations to eliminate those barriers.
- The ODE’s responsibility to provide mandated training to the DCF’s entire workforce (including DCF’s administrators, managers and supervisors) in the areas of anti-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment laws, mandates, and internal policies.
- The ODE’s responsibility to report the DCF’s good faith efforts to comply with the State of Connecticut Regulations of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) via the writing and submission of the DCF’s annual Affirmative Action Plan to CHRO.
For additional information about the ODE’s responsibilities and its collaborative efforts with the DCF administration, please click on the Contact Us / Meet the Staff link and contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist assigned to your location.
Affirmative Action Plan (2016-2017)
Civil Rights Resources
Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO)
Connecticut Department of Social Services - Programs for People with Disabilities
Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Office of Multicultural Affairs
Safe Harbor Project (LGBT Resources)
Statewide Diversity Action Team
Statewide Racial Justice Workgroup
Policies and Procedures
Main Office Location:
Department of Children and Families
505 Hudson Street, 7th Floor
Hartford, Connecticut 06106
Main Office Telephone: 860-550-6356
Confidential Facsimile: 860-723-7201
Eileen F. Meehan
Acting ODE Director and Agency Title IX Coordinator
Assignment: Central Office
Assignment: ODE Administrative Support
Jeri D. Beckford, J.D.
Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist 2
State Cellular: 860-205-4754
Albert J. Solnit Children's Center, North Campus
Region 3 (Middletown, Norwich and Willimantic)
Region 4 (Hartford and Manchester)
Region 6 (Meriden and New Britain)
Irma Reyes, MSL
Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist 2
State Cellular: 860-205-5201
Albert J. Solnit Children’s Center, South Campus
Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS)
Region 1 (Bridgeport and Norwalk)
Region 2 (Milford and New Haven)
Region 5 (Danbury, Waterbury and Torrington)
Any individual doing business with the DCF as (but not limited to) a client, a foster parent, a provider, a prospective employee, a current employee or other party that is of the belief that an opportunity was denied to them or harassment (including sexual harassment) occurred due to one’s race, color, religious creed, age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, criminal record, genetic information, present or past history of mental disability, intellectual disability, learning disability or physical disability, including, but not limited to, blindness of any individual, unless such action is based on a bona fide occupational qualification should immediately fill out the DCF Internal Discrimination Compliant Intake Form provided below and contact the EEO Specialist assigned to your region or facility (Contact Us / Meet the Staff) within sixty (60) days of the alleged incident.
Title IX: Initial Complaint Form DCF-2124 (For Sexual Harassment Complainants within the DCF’s Educational Institutions Only)
The Department of Children and Families, through the Office of the Commissioner, has made a strong commitment to upward mobility. The Department views this program as a systematic way to aid employees in identifying, enhancing and applying their particular aptitudes. Further, it is a way to achieve the upward movement of aspiring employees who might have difficulty making progress otherwise. Experience with the upward mobility program has shown that it not only maximizes employee participant job satisfaction, but the very existence of such a program has a positive “ripple” affect on the larger Agency workforce and the Agency’s clients.
The Department of Children and Families has developed an upward mobility program in conformance with Affirmative Action regulations and the spirit of guidelines established by the Committee on Upward Mobility.
- Employees in entry level classifications
- Clerical, maintenance and paraprofessional employees
- Service workers who desire to improve their skill level in the Social Work profession
- Personnel Assistant
- Fiscal Administrative Assistant
- Children Services Assistant
- Youth Services Officer
- Trainee Cooks
- Assistant Protective Services Trainee
- Social Work Case Aide
- Social Worker Trainee
- Social Worker (enhancing professional skill level’s combating “burnout”)
The structure of the Department’s Upward Mobility Program is organized around several comprehensive components:
- Career Counseling
- Classification and
- Progressive Human Resources Policies
- Individual employee – Specific activity (individual target promotions, etc.)
- Broad agency-wide activities (program, operative procedures, policies, etc.)
The Department of Children and Families is a human services agency which regularly practices methods and deploys employee resources to protect and support children. To do this, the Department provides individuals with the tools necessary to assure an independent and fulfilling life. Both in its service activities and in its management of staff, the Department seeks to provide individuals with the opportunity to obtain meaningful job and life skills.
The Department believes that training, education and staff development:
- improves the quality of service delivered to clients;
- improves job performance and increases job satisfaction; and
- provides employees with enhanced opportunity for upward mobility.
The Department of Children and Families Training Academy became a reality in January of 1992, with the establishment of the facility in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In January of 1997 the Training Academy relocated to the Department’s Central Office in Hartford.
The resulting Consent Decree, effective since January of 1991, formulated principles and practices in child welfare addressing preventive and protective services, with the establishment of the Training Academy as a major component. The Training Academy shall provide, as per the Consent Decree Training Academy manual, “the state of the art, high quality, competency based, culturally responsive training, in accordance with national standards for practice in public child welfare, encourage staff to attain professional education; and utilize current research to improve in-service training and service delivery.” Plus, to “ensure that DCF employees possess the necessary critical information, knowledge and skills, the Training Academy shall offer pre-service preparation and in-service training for all employees, as well as training for foster parents and contracted service providers as appropriate.”
The Training Academy Advisory Board was established as the representative planning body for the training system. The Training Academy is operated by the Commissioner of DCF in consultation with the Training Academy Advisory Board. Per the Training Academy manual, “this assures that strategic planning, operational planning and program evaluation are routinely conducted by the most knowledgeable and committed people in the system. The representative nature of the group assures that all relevant information is considered before recommendations are made, and that decisions take into account the diverse needs and interest of constituent members.”
The Academy operates and maintains a professional library of up-to-date books periodicals, professional journals and abstracts related to social welfare, child welfare, child welfare management, supervision, protective and preventive services, children’s mental health issues, juvenile justice issues and services. The Librarian responds timely to requests for materials from all staff.
Managers, professionals and support staff at the Academy work cooperatively with the Department’s regional offices and facilities to coordinate training plans and meet identified training needs. Newly hired social workers and social work trainees are assigned to training units where they remain throughout their initial ten months with the Agency. The Training Academy and the Regional Office Training Unit Supervisors work closely to facilitate reinforcement of the materials presented at the Academy.
A major component of this training program is the presentation of four modules of core training developed by the Child Welfare League of America Training Institute. These modules address 52 competency areas that represent the core of child welfare practice. This pre-service curriculum established a theoretical framework for child welfare practice, transmits critical information, and promotes the development of job related skills. It was designed for adult learners, and as such integrates numerous opportunities for experiential learning and application of content to the job. When this is coupled with the supervision provided by the training unit supervisor, who has been through this same training, it maximizes the opportunity for the trainee to develop the skills necessary to do the job.
Newly appointed Social Work Supervisors also receive a full program of competency training following the American Humane Association curriculum. Social Work Supervisors are also assessed as to job performance. They are trained to identify motivational and systematic obstacles to performance and, upon return to their individual regions, collaborate with other supervisory staff and managers to resolve those obstacles. Additional training on cultural competency is available to supervisors at any time.
Each office and facility at the Department of Children and Families carries out is own localized training program, focusing on issues identified in a formal needs assessment survey headed by the Training Academy. This formal needs assessment survey is implemented once a year, and provides an opportunity for local managers and supervisors to determine areas for improvement.
Employees are provided with a Training Request Forms (TRS) to self-identify training needs. These forms are compiled, resulting in regionalized training plans. Each training plan is different, and focuses on five major priority areas defined by local TRS responses. However, there are recurrent training themes such as training requests for child development and mental health information, skill building in writing and legal matters, and mandatory seminars for OSHA and child car seat utilization.
In-service training is offered by the Training Academy to acquaint Department staff, through lectures, seminars and workshops, with new knowledge and methods relating to worker duties, management practices and supervisory techniques. In-services reinforce and update prior training, particularly in areas suggested in workers or supervisors Training Request Forms (TRS).
In this review year the Network has expanded to include the Superintendents of the DCF facilities themselves, as well as more high level clinical managers and supervisors. Training to support the goals of the Affirmative Action Plan is a high priority of the Network.
Representatives recruit and inform candidates concerning NP6 and P1 Health Career Mobility Grants and certification assistance made available each spring and fall: 1199 bargaining unit members (P1 and NP6) in the Department have available to them a Career Mobility Fund which is designated to grant release time with pay for members to take courses in health care related fields. The Department gets reimbursed from the fund for their time off the job. A joint labor-management committee defines the criteria for selection each year.
These same 1199 bargaining unit employees also have available a Certification Assistance Fund, to help pay for professional licenses, testing and certification costs. For example, this fund will pay for the examination application fee for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW).
Members of the Facilities Network also collaborate on the submission of P1 special workshop fund grants for their facilities, providing specialized trainings for nurses and clinicians on important topics and trends.
As with the Facilities Training Network, the purpose of the Professional Development Committees is to encourage professionalism and the upgrading of Department staff, and to ensure the high and consistent standardization of services to clients and families. Members of the Committee, representatives chosen by each Facility Superintendent, are completely responsible for determining their training needs and for the development and implementation of an annual workshop filled with day long training seminars. The Training Academy and Affirmative Action Division provide all necessary support and coordination for the committees, frequently call Training Advisory Councils.
Professional Development Committees have been established for the following occupational categories or job titles:
- Clerical Occupational Category -Paraprofessional and Professional Business Office Workers
- Representatives from the Facilities only:
- Service Maintenance Occupational category (Food Service Workers, Maintainers/Housekeepers)
- Paraprofessional and Professional Recreation Workers
- Paraprofessional Childcare Workers
- Nursing and Health Care Workers
The Training Academy provides training coordination for two major grant initiatives. The first, the Basic Child Abuse Grant allows for the provisions of in-service workshops on domestic violence. Community based service providers such as the Interval House and Non-violence Alliance provides the trainings. The frequent presence of domestic violence, coupled with substance abuse, reported to our child protection social workers, makes it essential that DCF staff maintain an in-depth understanding of these issues and how they contribute to risk for child abuse.
The second grant initiative, the Children’s Justice Act Grant, is utilized to provide collaborative training in joint investigations of child sexual and serious physical abuse. This training is available to all members of the multi-investigatory child protection teams consisting of DCF Social Work investigators, state police, state attorney’s and hospital medical personnel.
The Graduate Education Support (G.E.S.) Program is truly an excellent support for social work employees. Thru this stipend, employees are eligible for a modified work week of 35 hours from the usual 40 hours, and are able to devote time to research and study pursuits.
Each regional office, facility and division handles their own G.E.S. program and selection process. Usually there are more G.E.S. slots than there are applicants. In the next review year, the Affirmative Action Division will assist as necessary with the selection procedures used by the regions/facilities/central office, to assure consistency and continuity of the guidelines for program use.
Copies of the G.E.S. application and guidelines, names of social work staff selected along with demographic information, as well as the names and demographics of the field instructors, are all included in this section of the Plan.
The Social Work Internship Program (SWIP) is a major demonstration of the Department’s commitment to assist staff in their efforts to increase their knowledge and skills in the areas of social work.
As a result of the implementation of the Federal Consent Decree, the number of SWIP internships or available positions has increased from three to ten. Summer block internships have been included as well, allowing concentrated fields of study and placements for eligible staff during the summer session.
Participation of colleges and universities has increased to the current roster of the University of Connecticut, Southern Connecticut State University, Saint Joseph College, Springfield College and Fordham University.
The Social Work Internship Program is administered by the Training Academy under the leadership of the SWIP Advisory Committee, consisting of supervisory representatives from the regional offices (some of whom are graduates of the program), experienced clinicians and, members of the Training Academy. Much of the Advisory Board’s work is voluntary and is dedicated to the Department’s mission to enhance client service.
Eligibility for SWIP includes social work and direct service staff in regional offices, facilities and central office divisions. Viable candidates must have finished at least three years of service by the time that they would begin the program and, they must have gained acceptance into a Social Work Master’s program at one of the participating universities. Selections are based on a cumulative score from a written comprehensive examination, review of performance appraisals and professional references, submission of a writing sample, and a structured oral interview complete with a case vignette.
Field placements have included DCF families and community agencies serving the DCF client population. Field placements in 2000-2001 include High Meadows, Connecticut Children’s Place, Riverview Hospital, Klingberg Family Centre, Hartford Health Department, Hartford Behavioral Health and DCF’s Central Office.
Career development at the Department of Children and Families is an umbrella plan which can best be described with the following definitions:
- Career – The sequence of a person’s work related activities and behaviors and associated attitudes, values and aspirations over the span of one’s life.
- Career Planning – A deliberate process for:
- Becoming aware of self, opportunities, constraints, choices and
- Identifying career-related goals.
- Programming of work, education and related development experiences to provide the direction, timing and sequence of steps to attain a specified career goal.
- Becoming aware of self, opportunities, constraints, choices and
- Career Management – An ongoing process of preparing, implementing and monitoring career plans undertaken by the individual alone, or in concert with the organization.
- Career development can be defined as the outcomes of actions of career plans as viewed both from individual and organization perspectives.
- All aspects of career development are consciously or unconsciously – but inextricably – related to all other aspects of life and its goals and plans. Life planning may be defined as a self-analysis process for identifying relative emphases in one’s life among work, family, leisure, education and spiritual development.
- Careers are not built on guarantees, but on recognizing and preparing for opportunities. Although individuals are ultimately responsible for their career development, an important function of management is to cultivate their unit’s human resources and encourage participation of subordinates in their own professional growth.
- The Department of Children and Families continues to develop an extended program of career counseling. This commitment to employee career counseling is born of the same philosophy that supports its basic agency mission and its dedication to children at risk and their families. The Agency believes in people and in their basic dignity. By supporting, guiding, and encouraging career development, the Agency develops trained and motivated employees while contributing to productive engagement.
- Career counseling is a major component of the Department’s upward mobility program. As an ongoing activity, career counseling is provided to all levels of Department employees by the Human Resources and Affirmative Action Divisions, as well as managers and supervisors statewide. Career counseling is built into Training Academy pre-service and in-service modules for social work staff. At least one career counseling workshop is held at each of the Professional Development Training events held every year for non-professional staff.
Counseling is designed to assist Department employees in analyzing work interests, aptitudes and aspirations in planning for promotions, as well as to explore opportunities within the larger state system and life career planning. Affirmative Action career counseling begins as informational counseling with the provision of a number of written materials such as career ladder flyers, specifications, tips on how to take examination such as orals or multiple choice, etc. Advice is based on practical steps to successful promotion. It is the policy to share information on all career options viable and available to an employee, and to allow him or her the responsibility of acting on this knowledge. Employees are encouraged to analyze strengths, weaknesses and interests and establish goals and action plans.
The Department advertises and makes available the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for all levels of staff. DCF currently contracts with the University of Connecticut Health Center to provide EAP services. EAP offers free counseling and referral services to state employees with personal problems which negatively affect their job performance.
Human Resources notifies the Affirmative Action Division to assist, as appropriate, in helping resolve performance issues and thus retain the employees. Many times, retention is achieved by the development of a written stipulated agreement to the employee which clearly addresses the issues of performance, and which provides solutions and timetables for resolution.
Stipulated agreements and other counseling and retention measures are utilized frequently by the Human Resources and Affirmative Action Divisions. Career Counseling is also provided by supervisory staff as an ongoing supervisory activity. Using an employee development survey, counseling at the supervisory level is designed to assist the employee in analyzing work interests, aptitudes, and aspirations. Then the employees are encouraged to think about their promotional goals, training needs and timetables.
- Training Activities Personnel Activities
- On the job organizational orientation Affirmative Action Plan Managing Stress New Employee Orientation Your Career, Your Life.
- Job Postings-Employment Opportunities Your Future/Your Retirement Career Paths and/or Ladders
- Tuition Reimbursement
- Progressive Reclassification
The Department of Children and Families works on classification issues constantly, and has achieved a reasonably fluid classification structure. Most Agency employees are in class titles that are part of extended job families with multiple step career ladders. This had been through continuing aggressive classification work.
The Human Resources Division, with the assistance of the Affirmative Action Division, carries out actions which ensures that positions within the Department are not only classified at proper levels, but also that the positions are part of a lengthy career ladder of opportunities, beginning with a reachable entry level title to the highest step supervisory position. Movement within the career ladders are kept as fluid as possible and, whenever possible positions are considered comparable with positions in similar career ladders.
- Includes eight class titles, from training levels to top management;
- Employs a Trainee class as the key entry level which serves as a bridge class for college graduates who lack professional experience;
- Contains relevant and flexible job experience as substitutions for most educational requirements;
- Has the working level class of Social Worker on un-ranked, continuous recruitment;
- and Maintains supervisory level classes on unranked, continuous recruitment experience and training exams.
- Program Director Program Director Administration Child. Prot. Serv.
- Program Supervisor Program Supervisor Administration Child. Prot. Serv.
- Children Services
- Social Work Consultant
- Social Worker
- Social Worker Trainee
This seamless progression continues forward in the experience and training requirements to beyond the working level of Social Worker. Promotional examinations for Children Services Consultant, Social Work Supervisor, Program Supervisor and Program Director have been put on continuous recruitment in coordination with DAS Business Center.
Job specifications, qualifications, job-structuring and personnel procedures including recruitment and examination modes take into consideration measures which will facilitate upward mobility, career paths and a workforce which reflects the children whom we serve.
The Department also has seamless career ladders in place for its other administrative and professional classes: In the Fiscal Division, the business career ladder covers six levels supported by two training classes and one bridge class;
In the Information Services Division, there are six career levels incorporating one bridge class and the allowable substitution job experience for academic credentials at all levels; In the Human Resources Division there are seven career levels progressing from the training level to the Director of Human Resources. In addition, there are bridge classes and the provision that the Office Assistant experience can qualify directly for both Personnel Aide and Personnel Assistant. At all levels, relevant job experience may be substituted for academic requirements.
The most useful managerial career ladder is the Leadership Apprentice. Incumbents in this class receive formal and/or on the job instruction and training designed to provide the necessary knowledge and skills to qualify for appointment to a designated managerial/confidential class. Incumbents are eligible for promotion (usually reclassification) to the target class without competitive examination upon completion of an approved training program and satisfactory service.
The training program is written in accordance with the Department of Administrative Services and identifies a number of training program objectives which list knowledge, skills and abilities of the target class that the incumbent should have acquired upon completion of the training program. Further, managerial competencies are frequently used as a basis for training and evaluation of managers/confidentials in the program.
The Department consistently pays attention to the minimum qualifications when monitoring for job relatedness and evidence of equal opportunity. As an Agency-wide practice, DCF classes allow substitutions of experience for educational background, as the agency accepts relevant volunteer experience as qualifying, provided it can be quantified and documented. This has enabled an extended population of applicants to meet the minimum entrance requirements. The only exceptions are those classes requiring licensure, classes whose minimum qualifications are determined by statute, and the classes of Social Worker Trainee, Social Worker and Connecticut Career Trainee, all of which have a statewide bachelor’s degree requirement. In most instances, where the Connecticut Career Trainee is the entry level, the Department has established a corresponding paraprofessional bridge level to assure equal access to agency professional and technical levels.
The pre-professional trainee career development program is utilized by the Department to provide upward or lateral mobility for non-professional employees (primarily clerical and paraprofessional staff) who have traditionally encountered difficulty accessing technical and professional level positions.
DCF also uses Fiscal Administrative Assistant, Personnel Aide and Personnel Assistant classes as bridges from the clerical to the professional career fields.
Associate degrees will be routinely considered, particularly in the paraprofessional titles of Children Services Worker, Youth Services Officer and Social Worker Case Aide.
Finally, please note that all non-professional occupational categories at the Department utilize entry level job titles in order to bring aboard protected class and disadvantaged candidates, for example, Youth Services Officer Trainee, Children Services Assistant, Social Work Case Aide, Clerk, Clerk Typist, Cook Assistant and Protective Services Trainee.
4. Progressive Human Resources Programs
A progressive personnel program represents one of the most systematic supports for Affirmative Action.
In the past, the Department of Children and Families participated in the Decentralized Personnel Exam Program known as DPEP, which provided a system for the promotion of DCF employees in a timely manner based upon performance, accomplishments and preparation for advancement.
However, the most effective tool for upward mobility promotions remains intact, and is widely utilized by the Department – reclassification of an incumbent within his/her own position.
The process for reclassification is very timely and affirmative. First, the Department must have an operational need for the position to be at a different, if not higher class level. Second, the incumbent currently in the position must qualify in terms of experience and training to this same new level. Then the incumbent completes a duties questionnaire and other paperwork and the request for reclass is sent to DAS for review and approval.
The Human Resources Retention Plan, submitted and approved by the Federal Court Monitor, discusses programs which provides the framework for progressive personnel programs for the Department of Children and Families. Programs which specifically focus upon progressive Human Resources implementation require reiterating in this section.
New Employee Orientation
Employees who are newly hired or transfer to DCF, are required to attend a New Employee Orientation Program. The Orientation Program was revised and expanded from one day to two days in April 2000 in order to provide a more in-depth orientation for new employees to the Department. This program is designed to acclimate the employee to the DCF culture by providing information on the Agency, it’s mission, core values, structure, and the Commissioner’s vision. The program also includes sections on policies and procedures as well as employee benefits. New employees are provided with a completely revised Employee Handbook which encompasses rules and regulations of the State and the Department. Also included is information on benefits and other pertinent information. New employees are also provided with a copy of their job specification. New hires complete the forms required for payroll processing and selection of benefits. The Training Academy also provides an overview of the Training Academy and cultural diversity training.
The State of Connecticut offers a variety of programs to encourage enhancement of education and skills, including educational leave of absence, conference and workshop reimbursement and tuition reimbursement. DCF encourages its employees to participate in these programs. We utilize the new employee orientation process to ensure that all are aware of these opportunities.
Employees who wish to further their education may opt for an educational leave of absence. The educational leave policy outlined in General Letter 27 (revised July 27, 1990) applies to educational leaves of absence for employees in the classified service except where superseded or modified by the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
Educational leave of absence with pay, partial pay, or without pay, is leave from regular duties and responsibilities, and may be authorized to enable an employee to study or receive technical training which will increase proficiency in his/her position or for other reasons which may be deemed by the Department to be in the best interest of the State. Leaves may be granted to gain advanced knowledge and insight into new trends or techniques, to increase the professional capacity of the employees and the Department itself, to keep abreast of new developments in rapidly changing professional or technical fields, to provide needed refresher study, or to permit special training in key occupations or occupations for which human resources are in short supply.
All educational leaves, whether with or without pay for more than five working days in a calendar year, must be approved in advance. Only permanent full-time employees are eligible for an educational leave of absence. Traditionally, DCF has only granted educational leaves of absence without pay, while holding an employee’s position for three months. DCF must determine whether a rearrangement of the employee’s work schedule, to accommodate the training, is feasible, travel time will not be excessive, essential services will not be impaired, and an undue burden will not be place on the Department or on other employees by excusing an employee from their regular work assignment.
The leave request must identify whether the course work is part of a formal degree program, the degree being sought, and the major field of study. The request must also provide an explanation of how the Department and the State will benefit by granting the leave.
Conference and Workshop Reimbursement
Many Union contracts with the State have a provision for reimbursement of costs associated with attending conferences, workshops and seminars which are job related. Costs such as registration fees, travel expenses, and meals are subject to such reimbursement. Reimbursement requests must be approved by the Department.
Tuition reimbursement allows employees to continue their undergraduate or graduate education while employed by the State and is available to employees who have completed their initial working test period. Tuition reimbursement permits employees to offset a portion of the cost of their education. Many bargaining units have different guidelines for tuition reimbursement with regard to the number of courses allowed, the rate of reimbursement and the amount of funds allocated. Payment is subject to the submittal of verification of payment, documentation of a passing grade, and the availability of funds.
Applications for tuition reimbursement must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the start of classes. The application must state the cost per credit, and any financial aid must be reported. Loans which are to be repaid and are given directly to the employee do not need to be reported, but if a loan is paid directly to the educational institution, a statement must be submitted with the application to verify that the financial aid is given in the form of a loan. At the end of the semester, employees must submit the grade for the course along with proof of payment in order to be reimbursed. All requests and any questions regarding tuition reimbursements should be directed to the Payroll Unit.
The Department has made great strides in the area of worker safety in recent years. DCF has regarded safety as important, utilizing loss control funding from the Department of Administrative Services to shape and sponsor training for both facility based and regional environments, and the review of safety practices within the regions by a recognized expert. The Department has a Worker’s Compensation/Safety Coordinator within the Human Resources Division to coordinate and manage safety programs. Safety Committees have been established at each work site, and safety training has been conducted in the regional offices, Central Office, and in the facilities.
Workplace injuries are taken seriously by DCF. When an injury occurs it is reviewed by the Safety Committee as well as the work location management team. All workplace injury claims are managed by Berkley Administrator’s, a third party provider of case management and administrative services for worker’s compensation. In addition, the Department of Administrative Services has implemented a state-wide automated system (Automated Worker Compensation System) of injury reporting and claim handling to aid in timely and accurate services.
DCF has implemented a light duty program to assist employees who are injured on the job, the opportunity to return to work on light duty for up to 90 days to help ease their transition back to the workplace.
Loss control initiatives have been implemented to help prevent injuries and/or reduce the severity of injuries. These include, the “Handle with Care” program at Long Lane School, and a hybrid CPI/RESPONSE program at our other facilities. Another significant initiative is the pilot program of Assaulted Staff Action Program (ASAP) at Riverview Hospital. This program is a debriefing program to discuss the assault of a staff member.
In addition to the above initiatives, the Training Academy presents a broad based curriculum of safety training programs.
In an effort to reduce employee stress by minimizing situations where employees are at risk of injury, the Department, through it’s Worker’s Compensation and Safety Coordinator, provides training to all regional staff. Social work and clerical employees have been trained in the areas of risk assessment and personal safety.
Violence in the Workplace
The Human Resources Division has developed a “Workplace Violence Plan” and have trained supervisors and managers with the procedures to follow in the event of an incident of workplace violence. In the next review year training will be expanded to all Department employees.
The Department continues to provide benefits to employees as required by state law. Permanent employees who work at least twenty-one (21) hours bi-weekly are entitled to medical and dental insurance. There are currently five (5) health care plans and two (2) dental plans from which employees can choose.
Group Life insurance is an optional state benefit offered to permanent employees who have completed six months of service. This plan provides term life insurance coverage for the duration of an employee’s state employment and during retirement. The plan is 100% employee paid.
The Department Care Assistance Program (DCAP) is another benefit available to State employees. This program allows employees to have money deducted from their paycheck in any amount to a maximum of $5,000 per year to set aside as pre-tax dollars to be used to pay for child care or care of an elderly dependent. DCAP is a reimbursement program where the employee pays the service provider, then submits claims for the amount spent. Since this money is deducted from gross pay prior to income tax withholding, there is a significant tax savings to the employee. To qualify, services provided must be child or adult day care which is necessary to enable the employee to work. In other words, private school tuition, swimming lessons, music lessons or the like, are not qualifying expenses. For child care, the child must be under thirteen years of age. The third party administrator for this program is Colonial Life and Accident. Representatives from Colonial meet with employees, either on an individual basis or in groups, to provide information and to enroll employees during the annual open enrollment period. General information is available through the Human Resources Division.
The Department will be providing an open enrollment period of “guaranteed issue” for Long Term Care Insurance coverage to all employees. This state benefit allows for coverage of expenses incurred for long term care which are not covered by the regular health insurance coverage available to employees.
State employees are eligible for various types of retirement plans, depending upon date of hire, job classification and the employee’s collective bargaining unit.
Quality of Life
Retirement counseling is available through the DCF Payroll Division, or the State Retirement Division.
The Department has identified a variety of issues which affect employees’ employment decisions. It is important to consider issues which may not appear to be directly related to an employee’s job, but which have an impact on his/her happiness and well-being. Family demands, personal safety concerns, and lack of recognition are all issues which impact on an employee’s perception of self and their job. An employee who feels overwhelmed, stressed, or incompetent will not be happy, and will have no incentive to remain in their present position. It is frequently these less tangible issues which, although often overlooked, are the deciding factors in whether an employee chooses to leave the job or retain employment.
Under the Administrative and Residual contract (P-5), DCF continues to offer a flex schedule for employees. All other collective bargaining agreements have contractual language which provides for consideration of an adjusted work schedule to balance personal needs such as child care, family care, medical, transportation or educational participation. All such requests for a flex schedule or schedule adjustment are subject to the operational needs of the agency and require prior approval.
Job Sharing/Part Time Positions
The Department’s work force includes employees who are struggling to balance careers, family demands and educational enhancement. Through the years, many employees have expressed an interest in part-time employment, but the Department has not been in a position to accommodate part-time requests. As a result, many highly trained and dedicated employees reluctantly resign, in order to care for young children, ill family members, or to pursue higher education. In some cases, employees were rehired by DCF when outside demands changed.
An increase in the availability of part-time positions is one solution to this problem. Another solution which has been used on a limited basis within DCF is job sharing. This is where two employees share the demands of one full time position. This allows for the Agency to continue to have the services of a full-time position provided, without interruption, while allowing two employees the flexibility they need so they can satisfy their personal demands white remaining employed.
When operationally feasible, DCF will offer more part-time positions and job sharing arrangements which will allow: employees to stay current with the philosophies, policies and procedures of the Department; ensure continuity of services provided by qualified and experienced staff to the children and families which we serve; allow employees to remain employed while meeting the growing variety of personal demands; and provide an alternative for employees who see to further their education.
The Human Resources Division has reviewed job classification in terms of job sharing. This included a review of the duties and responsibilities of the job and an assessment of the feasibility of sharing those responsibilities between two employees. It must be acknowledged all jobs cannot be shared effectively.
The Human Resources Division continues to review situations for the possibility of increased numbers of part time positions, and will advise managers of the potential of increasing the number of part time staff.
This recognition of the dedication of our employees to the Agency and to the children and families we serve is critical to ensure retention. If an employee feels he/she is not appreciated or his/her skills are not being utilized, the employee is likely to look elsewhere for employment since wages in the state system are regulated by the classification system and collective bargaining agreements. The Department must explore other ways in which to demonstrate to employees they are valued and appreciated.
The Department of Children and Families has used some different methods of recognizing employees. Every year, a Child Care Conference is held for institutional child care staff where a “Child Care Worker of the Year” is selected. The Unified School District II also has a “Teacher of the Year.” An annual Clerical Conference is held to provide clerical staff with an opportunity to attend workshops and network with other support staff from throughout the Agency. In 1999, the Agency took part in the Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) annual recognition program and one of our institutional direct care staff was chosen as a Regional Award Winner and was invited to the CWLA annual conference. The regional offices continue to conduct some form of “Staff Appreciation Day” to recognize all employees for the important role they play in our Agency. Individual supervisors have also commended employees on superior performance by writing to the employee regarding specific incidents or general issues, such as outstanding attendance or performance on a specific case. These types of letters can be rewarding as they serve as positive feedback and are placed in the employee’s Human Resources file to become part of the official employment record.
The Human Resources Division will continue to review the issue of employee recognition during the coming year in order to evaluate current programs and where the Department needs to implement new programs. One program which is being explored, is an award for “Employee of the Year”, open to all employees of the Agency.