ASSEMBLY, No. 4638

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED JUNE 29, 2015

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE

District 37 (Bergen)

Assemblyman  TROY SINGLETON

District 7 (Burlington)

Assemblyman  JAMEL C. HOLLEY

District 20 (Union)

Assemblywoman  GABRIELA M. MOSQUERA

District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)

Assemblywoman  CLEOPATRA G. TUCKER

District 28 (Essex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Requires DCPP to implement policies and procedures to ensure caseworker safety.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

 


An Act concerning caseworker safety and supplementing Title 30 of the Revised Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  a.  Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families shall implement policies and procedures to ensure the safety of every caseworker employed by the division. 

     The policies and procedures shall address issues of safety in the event that a caseworker receives a threat of violence from a client or is presented with a potentially dangerous situation while working in a local office, investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field, or making an emergency removal of a child pursuant to section 8 of P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.28).

     b.  In order to ensure the safety of a caseworker in a local office, the division shall require that:

     (1) a Human Services police officer or State trooper is assigned to every building where a local office is located to provide security and assistance to the caseworkers assigned to the office;

     (2) each local office is equipped with a metal detector or metal detector wands to be operated by the Human Services police officer or State trooper assigned to the office;

     (3) a panic button be installed in every meeting room in which a caseworker meets with a client; and

     (4)  at least one meeting room or conference room in each local office is equipped with a two-way mirror located to allow for the observation of the meeting or conference room by the Human Service police officer or State trooper assigned to the office.

     c.  In order to ensure the safety of a caseworker while investigating a report of  child abuse or neglect in the field or making an emergency removal of a child pursuant to section 8 of P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.28), the division shall require that:

     (1)  a caseworker assigned to a home visit is accompanied by another caseworker if:

     (a)  a client or a member of the client's family has threatened or harassed the assigned caseworker in the past;

     (b)  the client or a member of the client's family has a history of violence either documented by a criminal record or by threats of violence against the division or a division employee; or

     (c) the caseworker believes the home or the surrounding environment is unsafe;

     (2)  at the request of a caseworker or the caseworker's supervisor, the Human Services police officer or State trooper assigned to the caseworker's local office accompanies and assists the caseworker when conducting an investigation in a high crime area or making an emergency removal; and

     (3)  the Human Services police officer or State trooper assigned to a local office is available to a caseworker within 30 minutes of a request to accompany and assist a caseworker pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection, except that in an emergency situation, the officer shall be immediately available to accompany and assist the caseworker.

     d.  Nothing in subparagraph (1) of subsection c. of this section shall be construed to prohibit the division, at the request of a caseworker or the caseworker's supervisor, from requiring that a Human Services police office or State trooper assigned to the caseworker's local office accompany or assist the caseworker while investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field or making an emergency removal of a child, if appropriate; and

     e.  The division shall require that each local office implement a caseworker safety intervention plan.  The plan shall, at a minimum:

     (1)  establish specific procedures to follow when a caseworker is faced with, and responding to, a situation that poses a threat to the safety and well-being of the caseworker, whether in the local office, in the field, or when making an emergency removal of a child;

     (2)  specify when to request the assistance of the Human Services police office or State trooper assigned to the local office and how to initiate such requests; and

     (3)  be posted in a conspicuous place in the local office and a copy of the plan shall be provided to every staff member assigned to that office.

 

     2.  The Department of Children and Families shall adopt rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to effectuate the purposes of this act.

 

     3.  This act shall take effect on the first day of the seventh month next following enactment, except that the commissioner may take any anticipatory administrative action in advance as shall be necessary for the implementation of this act.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill requires the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families to implement policies and procedures to ensure the safety of every caseworker employed by the division.  The policies and procedures would address issues of safety when a caseworker receives a threat of violence from a client, or is presented with a potentially dangerous situation while working in a local office, investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field, or making an emergency removal of a child pursuant to section 8 of P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.28).

     Under the provisions of the bill, in order to ensure the safety of a caseworker in a local office, the division would require that: a Human Services police officer or State trooper be assigned to every building where a local office is located to provide security and assistance to the caseworkers assigned to the office; each local office be equipped with a metal detector or metal detector wands operated by the Human Services police officer or State trooper assigned to the local office; a panic button be installed in every meeting room in which a caseworker meets with a client; and at least one meeting or conference room in each local office be equipped with a two-way mirror located to allow for the observation of the room by the Human Services police officer or State trooper assigned to the office.

     In order to ensure the safety of a caseworker when investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field or when making an emergency removal of a child, the division would require: a caseworker assigned to a home visit to be accompanied by another caseworker if certain conditions delineated in the bill are met; at the request of a caseworker or the caseworker's supervisor, the Human Services police officer or State trooper assigned to the caseworker's local office would accompany and assist the caseworker when conducting an investigation in a high crime area or making an emergency removal; and the Human Services police officer or State trooper assigned to a local office would be available to a caseworker within 30 minutes of a request to accompany and assist the caseworker, except that in an emergency situation, the officer or trooper would be immediately available.

     The provisions of the bill stipulate that when a caseworker, investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field or making an emergency removal of a child, is assigned to a home visit and is accompanied by another caseworker, nothing would prohibit the division, at the request of the caseworker or the caseworker's supervisor, from requiring that a Human Services police office or State trooper assigned to the caseworker's local office accompany or assist the caseworker while on the home visit, if appropriate.

     The bill also requires that each local office implement a caseworker safety intervention plan.  The plan would, at a minimum: establish specific procedures to follow when a caseworker is facing or responding to a situation that poses a threat to the safety and well-being of the caseworker, whether in the local office, in the field, or when making an emergency removal of a child; specify when to request the assistance of the Human Services police officer or State trooper assigned to the caseworker's local office and how to initiate such requests; and be posted in a conspicuous place in the local office and a copy of the plan would be provided to every staff member assigned to the office.