The Department of Child Services’ caseload is up a quarter over last year. So the state is responding by hiring more than a hundred new caseworkers.
State law sets a standard for the average number of cases each DCS employee should be handling at one time. The vast majority of the department’s regions have been out of compliance for years.
The state responded earlier this year by hiring 100 new caseworkers and 17 supervisors -- but DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura says since then, there’s been a spike in demand.
“We just had a 26-percent increase," Bonaventura says. "Think about it: if we hadn’t had that 26-percent increase, we would be in compliance.”
Governor Mike Pence says DCS will hire 113 additional caseworkers to ensure Indiana isn’t just meeting its statutory obligation, but its moral one as well.
“That the men and women who are willing to step forward, to answer a call to come alongside vulnerable kids in Indiana have the resources and the training and the broad support in the organization to do that job and do it effectively,” Pence says.
American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana legal director Ken Falk says he’ll have to evaluate whether the new hires will bring the agency into compliance. Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson), who’s long advocated for more caseworkers at DCS, says the governor’s latest action only gets Indiana to the bare minimum. And State Democratic Party spokesman Drew Anderson accuses Pence of only acting in response to a public relations crisis.
Pence says the new hires will cost a little more than $7 million. He says the exact funding source hasn’t yet been identified, whether from within or outside the DCS budget.