Chicago, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Seven weeks after an attack on an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworker left her in a coma, another DCFS caseworker has been attacked while on the job.
The latest attack is one of more than a dozen in the past four years, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.
Neil Skene, Senior Deputy Director for DCFS, said this weekend a case worker making a home visit was pushed by a parent, as was the police officer accompanying the case worker.
On Sept. 29, Pamela Sue Knight, 59, was attacked as she was trying to take protective custody of a 2-year-old child. According to reports, Andrew J. Sucher, 25, the child’s father, attacked Knight, beating her within an inch of her life, kicking her in the head. Knight remains in a coma following the attack, and “will require medical assistance and equipment to support her for the remainder of her life,” her husband, Don Knight of Dixon, said after court proceedings for her attacker on Monday, according to the Sauk Valley News.
The attack on Knight illustrated what caseworkers face daily, Skene said in an interview with WorkersCompensation.com.
“Caseworkers are dealing with people who are unpredictable and it’s about their kids,” he said. “Often, caseworkers are in very volatile situations.”
Despite the dangers of the job that have arisen lately, the department lacks a full understanding of the magnitude of the problem, he said.
“We don’t have any aggregate data on the incidents,” Skene said. “In order to help the Tribune with its article, we looked through critical incident reports, but we don’t have good aggregate data for it and that’s something we’re obviously going to look at in the future.”
The Tribune’s report found incidents since 2013, some of them ranging from a DCFS worker needing more than six months off of work after being attacked, to a DCFS worker who needed two months off after a child’s parent and their friend beat the caseworker attempting to take custody of a child, to a caseworker who was left with permanent eye injury after an assault while on the job.
Skene said those were the incidents that were reported, but that many more went unreported.
“There are lots of threats,” he said. “While there may not be a physical assault, there is a psychological impact. Director (Beverly) Walker said the other day 'You don’t even know when you need to be worried.’”
Legislators in Illinois have proposed legislation that would “give DCFS workers the same protection as policemen, firemen and other peace officers who put themselves in harm’s way.”
Sponsored by Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport), House Bill 4741 has gained support from mostly republican legislators. The bill has been referred to the Rules Committee.
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