Profile: Janet Ludwig

Child Protective Specialist II

If you were under a court directive to perform your job in a specified amount of time and circumstances out of your control made that impossible, how would you feel?

That is the dilemma facing employees at New York’s Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.

The Central Register is the hot line mandated reporters like medical personnel and school officials, and voluntary reporters like neighbors and relatives, call to report alleged abuse. The Central Register is under court directive to answer calls within one minute at least 85 percent of the time.

“When overtime was carte blanche, we were meeting that goal,” says child protective specialist II Janet Ludwig, a member of the New York State Public Employees Federation.

Budget cuts, including a concerted effort to limit overtime combined with staffing shortfalls, have resulted in callers experiencing wait times up to 50 minutes, Ludwig says.

“It is devastating for staff here, especially when we get those severe calls,” says Ludwig. “When you have [a caller] in the queue for 30 minutes to 50 minutes, it is depressing. People leave work and say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this job anymore.’ ”

While call volume fluctuates, Ludwig says the hot line, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays, averages 1,200 to 1,400 calls a day. “About one-third of those reports of suspected abuse turn out to be founded.”

There are approximately 150 child protective specialist Is on staff, plus another 28 child protective specialist IIs, like Ludwig, who also pick up calls if need be.

“We are sitting there, and there is nothing we can do,” says Ludwig about calls backing up. “Everybody is working their hearts out. It is heartbreaking. We are here for a purpose.”