Contra Costa Co. cuts 200 jobs

December 9, 2008 7:15:43 PM PST
Social worker Chris Haran held up a picture of his family as he pleaded with Contra Costa supervisors not to eliminate his job.

"This is my family; these are the people who are going to be impacted if I lose my job; this is my son, this is my daughter," Haran said.

As it turned out, Haran will be among 203 county workers sent pink slips, after the board voted on package of cuts to save $18.5 million.

"It is bleak, it is painful, it is difficult; there is no easy solution," County Administrator David Twa said.

The county's foster care licensing and adoption services were saved, but 79 social workers positions were eliminated, most of those handle child abuse cases.

"These social workers are our lifelines," foster parent Lisa Dye said. "If you take them away, we're going to drown like the Titanic and those babies are going to be underneath it."

Caseloads for remaining child abuse workers will go up, from eight to 12 families per month.

The cuts also include teen pregnancy, job search, domestic violence and substance abuse counseling services.

Joe Valentine heads the Contra Costa County Department of Human Services; Valentine will lose 12 percent of his staff, including 64 percent of his elder abuse case workers.

"Our social workers work really hard to ensure that children are safe, the elderly are safe and now we're going to be asking them to shoulder many additional cases," Valentine said.

Supervisors say they had no choice, given declining sales and property tax revenues and dwindling income from the state.

"It hurts, it hurts us each and every day," county Supervisor Mary Piepho said. "We know we are affecting lives with each and every decision we make. They are tough decisions, but we can't spend what we don't have."

Pink slips for the affected workers will go out next week, with their last day on the job being Dec. 31. The supervisors also warned that a second round of cuts could come in February.


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