Neglect cases are reports of children living in unsafe conditions, such as being underfed, or being left alone. While such reports are supposed to be investigated within five days, the backlog included some reports that had been unattended for as long as six weeks.
The city had sought to lift a cap of eight new neglect cases per worker per month, but union officials had resisted, saying the cap was necessary to insure thorough case work.
Under the agreement approved yesterday, intake workers will have a target load of nine new cases per month, which cannot be exceeded for two successive months without remedial action.
In return, the city has agreed to hire 10 additional intake workers and establish a labor/management committee that will monitor the situation.
"This agreement is good for the children of Philadelphia, which is always the first concern of the workers," said chief steward Khary Atif. He credited fellow union official Lisa Dooley with helping negotiate the accord.
Reeves said that while the backlog persisted, cases were being prioritized, with the most dangerous reports getting the earliest attention.
"Even though we prioritized the cases, it's always hard to tell how much risk a child is in until you've investigated," Reeves said. She added that it was particularly important to resolve the dispute now.
"The concern is that with school ending, and the weather being like it is, that children are at greater risk." Reeves said. "At school, teachers may be able to keep an eye on the children."
Reeves said that thanks to the union's cooperation, the backlog should be eliminated in the next 10 to 15 days.