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Politics & Government

State lawmaker seeks to streamline hiring of state youth care staff

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Kids Department looks to be more competitive in hiring child care staff.

The Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families struggles to fill positions at its youth rehabilitation centers across the state.

Deputy Secretary Steve Yeatman says it can be difficult to get applicants to recognize the generous benefits offered to state employees; including healthcare, paid time off and a pension

“Sometimes folks look at that dollar amount solely and it’s not as easy to compete with the sheer dollar amount — however, we’ve done a really good job in this state of increasing the starting salaries of these positions,” said Yeatman.

Youth Care Specialists now get over $16.50 an hour. Yeatman didn’t want to mention businesses they compete with — but the new Amazon warehouse in Newport is just 2 miles away from one of its facilities, and offers up to $18.50 an hour.

The department worked with State Sen. Kyle Evans Gay on a bill to streamline the application process. If passed, the Kids Department could conditionally hire and train employees while they go through a background check and drug screening.

Evans Gay says the bill is modeled after a similar policy used by the Delaware Psychiatric Center.

“The existence of a similar policy for other facilities demonstrates that it works,” she said. “It demonstrates that this is a process that can be implemented safely and that we can continue to hold employees to a high standard and a high vetting process.”

Yeatman says many applicants leave the hiring process early for another job without a lengthy process.

He says the most important thing for applicants is often how fast they can start getting paid. This would make it two weeks sooner.

And Evans Gay says it wouldn’t affect the integrity of the youth rehab centers. Staff always start in a two week training course and don’t interact with children until after that, allowing time to complete required background checks.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.