Department of Family and Children's Services Struggling to Hire

Lori Medina, director of the Santa Clara Dept. of Family and Children's Services, told the Board of Supervisors why the department still isn't answering 100 percent of the calls coming into its child abuse hotline.

Following an NBC Bay Area investigation revealing the Santa Clara Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) center fails to respond to all calls coming into its hotline, leaders of the agency updated the Finance and Government Operations Committee on plans to address its shortcomings.

Lori Medina, director of the Santa Clara Dept. of Family and Children's Services, told the committee her department plans to add two positions to the CAN center and five administrative support positions to relieve social workers of some of their clerical and paperwork duties.

Medina said the department is also working with the Casey foundation to look at "best practices" across the nation about how to leverage technology and staffing to answer and respond to all calls reporting child abuse in Santa Clara County.

Staff said the center currently answers 92 percent of its calls. That's up from the 41 percent of calls answered during a 2013 audit of the center. A 2015 grand jury report found the answer rate was 89 percent.

Committee president Joe Simitian said he was "delighted to see progress, but troubled to see not every call is being answered," and pointedly asked Medina, "Is there anything else you need to get the job done? I'm asking you in a public place for reason," indicating the committee expects the department to answer 100 percent of the calls received by its hotline.

Medina reported challenges in filling jobs because of "odd shifts," specifically two vacant weekend positions that would be a 4/10 work schedule, i.e., each position would cover one weekend day, allowing two employees to work four days a week for ten hour shifts.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez asked for concrete deadlines for hiring staff. She said she visited the CAN center to better understand the procedures and said she observed staff still using "a white board and triplicate paper," unable to scan and file complaints appropriately.

Chavez was told by DCFS staff they are conducting interviews next week and anticipate filling all the positions in the call center by the beginning of January.

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