As a former foster care intern in Montgomery County's Child Welfare Services, I would like to add my comments to those of Maryland State Sen. Ulysses Currie ["Protection for Maryland's Most Vulnerable," Close to Home, May 16]. The Maryland General Assembly's approval of the caseload recommendation of the Child Welfare League of America is a big step toward alleviating a major source of the highly publicized cases of gross errors by child welfare workers: Specifically, caseworkers have far too many children on their caseload to properly do their job of protecting children. (Unlike most counties, Montgomery already pays a higher salary and requires a master's degree in social work, so competency is not the problem as it is for most of the state.)

The workers I saw cared about the children in their care. They worked extremely hard, rarely taking more than 10 minutes for lunch. They also had the intense emotional stress of seeing children who had been severely abused and working with parents whose neglect or abuse caused the children to suffer. One result is undetected abuse. Another result is burnout and a high worker turnover.

This year's General Assembly approved a three-year phased caseload reduction. Actual reductions will occur only if future General Assemblies authorize the increased funds.

-- Dana Grubb