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1 year after investigation, social worker says DCF worse than ever

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BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) -- One year after a child welfare group exposed major problems at the Department of Children and Families in the wake of the Jeremiah Oliver case, the 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who wasn't checked on and was found dead, social workers told our Sharman Sacchetti that things at DCF are worse than ever.

"Caseloads of 25 to 30 usually translate to about 60 or 70 children," Robert Bullock, a Dorchester social worker said. "Everybody says they care, everybody says they want to help. It's time to show that you're committed to helping."

The union says the agency needs more money to hire enough people to do the job.

"They were able to hire over 500, 600 workers, but they also lost several hundred as well, so the net gain has only been about 200- to 300 workers statewide," SEIU Local 509 Spokesman Jason Stephany said.

When asked if he thought the department was better off now, in May of 2015 that they were in May of 2014, Stephany said, "I honestly can't say that we are."

Last May, the report done by the Child Welfare League of America exposed outdated policies, lack of technology, and a caseload at its highest level in 20 years. Governor Charlie Baker named the advocate who led the report to be his new DCF commissioner.

This year he set aside $900 million for the agency, a three percent increase.

"We certainly made a significant investment in DCF in the budget that we filed," he told Sacchetti at the State House.

DCF was a theme that dominated the campaign headlines.

So has anything changed under this governor? Sacchetti asked about the upcoming one year anniversary of the CWLA report, but was interrupted by the governor.

"I've had 115 days," Baker said. "We're working on it. We're working on it. We're working on it."

The governor's office points out cell phones and iPads all went out to social workers and the union tells FOX25 the technology has helped.

The budget passed the house and is now in the senate.