A state child protection worker, critically injured after she was repeatedly stabbed in the hallway outside her office in Camden, has been released from the hospital, authorities said.
And union leaders are continuing to advocate safety improvements for workers in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) across the state, who say they work in extremely dangerous conditions, and who had threatened to stay home this week if things did not improve.
Last month, armed guards were removed from offices throughout New Jersey and reassigned to three psychiatric facilities around the state. On Nov. 17, a caseworker was stabbed inside the DCF office on Haddon Avenue.
Leah Coleman, 29, was meeting with a client, Taisha Edwards, 30, of Camden. Edwards allegedly stabbed Coleman repeatedly with a nine-inch steak knife before she was subdued by several of Coleman's coworkers. Edwards was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and weapons offenses.
Coleman was rushed to Cooper University Hospital, blocks away. She remained hospitalized until her release Sunday, said Lori Shaffer, a hospital spokeswoman.
Workers had threatened to stay home Monday if they thought conditions had not improved.
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman in the governor's office, said the union that represents caseworkers - Communications Workers of America - was aware last week that the state was putting armed security guards with metal-detecting wands in each of the 40 buildings housing local child protection offices. At least 19 of those are already staffed, more are scheduled to be staffed this week, and all are expected to have armed security guards a short time after that, Drewniak said.
"The job action CWA has been contemplating would be completely irresponsible, and the people hurt most would be the state's most vulnerable children and families," Drewniak said. "It also makes absolutely no sense, since DCF and the administration advised CWA leadership last week of the security enhancements, which are being implemented as we speak. CWA should unequivocally state that they will not walk out on DCF clients."
CWA state director Hetty Rosenstein said the union was continuing to discuss safety provisions with state officials.
Immediately after Coleman was stabbed, armed officers returned to the Haddon Avenue building, where there are no metal detectors and visitors are expected to sign a log.
"We worked out what we needed to work out," Rosenstein said of having armed guards return to most DCF office buildings this week.
"It is a good step that there are armed security officers in every office, because it's a very, very dangerous job. But there are still additional measures that must be taken," Rosenstein said.
DCF spokesman Ernest Landante Jr. did not return phone messages or an e-mail seeking comment.