Healthcare workers across NJ have responded to the call, providing patient care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, now essential workers providing support medical services to foster children are facing layoffs. The need for healthcare workers has not gone away, yet the Department of Children and Families (DCF) proposed a $4.3 million cut to the Child Health Unit and these cuts were approved by Governor Murphy and NJ lawmakers in September 2020.
The Child Health Unit is funded through DCF and is administered and operated by Rutgers University. As a result of this budget cut, 72 nurses and support staff will no longer be on the frontlines assessing and managing the healthcare needs of vulnerable children in NJ’s foster care system. Rutgers has delivered these layoff notices informing them that their last day will be November 6th.
“These are the most vulnerable children in the most precarious of situations and now, with the layoffs, we’re placing a primary resource for stability in their lives in jeopardy,” Ana Delgado, a DCF healthcare case manager, said. “Caseload size has always been a challenge and these layoffs will mean that our caseloads will get even bigger. I’ve always said that it’s irresponsible of the state to remove a child for neglect only to place them in the same situation. If we cannot meet their needs in foster care, how can we ensure their wellbeing?”
Besides larger caseloads for remaining staff as a result of the layoffs, they will also be relocated to different regions of the state. These changes create uncertainty in an already fragile system making it more challenging for healthcare workers to provide the same level of care. At a time when our state should be coming together to support NJ families and children, DCF and Rutgers have reduced children’s access to health and wellness providers.
Debbie White, President HPAE