CHARLESTON, W.Va. — New efforts are underway to improve safety for field workers with Child Protective Services in West Virginia.

State DHHR Commissioner of Bureau for Children and Families Nancy Exline explained the projects during a Tuesday morning meeting at the state capitol.

Exline said two pilot projects are underway. The first, being done this month, has provided about 30 CPS field workers with Samsung devices that give them several options.

“It will allow them to Instant Message with their supervisor. It will also allow them to take photographs, video and it will give them some abilities to give an alert to their supervisor if they have a situation,” Exline said.

Following up on reports of child abuse or other situations often put CPS workers in tense situations according to Exline. She said the workers need the best protection available.

A second pilot project, to begin in Nov., will equip some workers with a new security ID badge that will provide direct communication between a field worker and help office.

“They can press a button and it sends them to, sort of like a medical alert or when you have security to your home, someone can listen in and determine if we need to get law enforcement there,” Exline explained.

The bureau is also taking a complete inventory of its cell phones for field workers.

Exline said she hopes to begin making decisions in Dec. about which communication options will be best in which parts of the state.

“Some areas a cell phone may be the best device. Others it may be the security devices, the badges, and others it may be the Samsung devices.”

Exline said the top priority is safety not only for CPS workers but all workers in the Bureau of Children and Families that make home visits.

“I need to be able to protect everyone that goes out into the field,” she told lawmakers.

Del. Gary Howell, R-Mineral, asked Commissioner Exline if she would be against studying the possibility of allowing CPS workers to carry guns.

Exline said that’s not something that should be rushed into.

“I think it’s concerning, myself,” she said. “I think it’s something that needs a great deal of review or consideration before we go down that path.”

House Finance Committee Chair Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said at the very least DHHR workers in the field should be able to carry pepper spray.

“Animals are a real threat. Hitting your beeper or calling somebody on a cell phone or sending somebody a text really isn’t going to do much for you if you have a vicious dog at your heels,” Boggs said.

The DHHR is authorized to have 447 CPS workers but the vacancy rate is usually very high. Exline said it’s currently at 22 percent.


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  • Lowlander

    So, should the agency be held liable if a worker is hurt? If I were a social worker, I'd rather go home and be sued than visit my local mortuary staff. I would like to imagine a world where management cared as much about me as they cared about whether or not they could be sued.

  • Lowlander

    At least there are legislators in this state that have a good head on their shoulders. DHHR has criminal investigators that aren't allowed to carry firearms, so at least somewhere, someone cares enough about staff to think perhaps this is an issue that needs addressed.

  • NorthernWVman

    It should be a personal choice not an agency mandate. I am not saying it should be promoted just simply allowed and uninhibited. IMHO it tramples on these employees 2nd Amendment rights by not allowing them to personally carry. I do not say to officially allow it. That is a totally seperate issue. Knowing some of the CPS workers in the state I would disagree with a lot of them "officially" carrying a firearm due to their own fears and contempt of the firearm.

  • Dale

    To NorthernWVman. Agency liability costs won't allow for CCW folks to carry in their official capacity. Training and then re-training for certification purposes are obstacles DHHR doesn't want.

  • NorthernWVman

    How about the ones that actually have a CCW be allowed to carry their own firearm concealed? I cannot see why the 2nd Amendment has to be negated simply because of a position you are working.

  • Dale

    I agree with Roswell. Again, why not migrate CPS with the State Police? They have a whole section dedicated to child abuse.

  • the truth

    welfare worker,

    All the gps stuff will due for you is to help them find the body of the cps worker. DHHR has a well established pattern of saying they will correct a problem and never doing anything. People need to realize a good portion of these "families" are the same people the police have arrested for drugs and violent crimes.

  • Roswell

    "Why": You are a paranoid sadist. I'll bet you would love an excuse to shoot someone. You probably are a "client". You are the reason we need gun control.

  • welfareworker

    carrying guns is stupid. It is my understanding that the devices being tested have gps and work in almost all of WV. at any rate they are being tested. if they don't work something else will have to be tried

  • the truth

    DHHR does not give a rip about any of their workers. I work a very dangerous job for DHHR that deals with criminals. No firearms for us, they would rather we be shot and killed. CPS needs to be with the state police. Most states they are grouped with law enforcement. Last time the contract social worker that was raped and murdered DHHR made everyone due a ten minute online course about security. Phones and security badges due not work in rural counties and are sad if they will think it will stop the violence.

  • sam

    I got a idea, This is so important lets make up jobs for armed investigators and lets pay them peanuts to protect DHHR workers. These programs with the samsung/portable devices is a stupid idea. Cell phones do not work at these locations . How can you be so stupid to even offer this as a means of protecting workers. Another leader who trys to wag the dog with its tail.....

  • WHY

    If I was a client and someone came to my home that I knew was armed I would believe it would be my right to be armed as well. I would be more focused on what that person would do with their gun rather than finding a solution to why they were coming to my home. It probably wouldn't be a good intervention as I probably would be looking for that person to make the wrong move and me having to protect myself.

  • Dale

    CPS should be a part of the State Police now days.

  • BH

    CPS workers often have to go to very isolated homes all over the "hills and hollers" of WV. At the very least, there should be 2 CPS workers at every home visit, escorted by law enforcement when a child is taken from their custodian.

  • Ex CPS

    As an former CPS worker, I carried my own pepper spray and had to use it several times on the dogs that owners let loose on me. I also had a woman pull a shotgun on me but thankfully, I had a fellow worker who was an ex-cop with me. He was able to diffuse the situation. Looking back, I was lucky and would now carry a gun if going back to that line of work.

  • NCWV

    You'd be better off if you just train and arm the CPS worker, or make sure they have an armed officer with them. Try to remember that much of West Virginia has very unreliable cell signal and no WiFi/3G/4G, etc. How would your gadget get a message to anybody?