Agency blames caseworker turnover on pay, scrutiny

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana's Department of Child Services on Wednesday blamed a combination of low pay and job stress stemming from media coverage of the agency for an increasing turnover rate among child caseworkers.

DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan accused Indiana media outlets of singling out caseworkers for criticism, though he didn't provide examples. Scrutiny of the department has grown in the last year as newspaper investigations have detailed numerous child deaths.

"It's perfectly OK to criticize the department," Ryan told members of the State Budget Committee. "When you start to criticize family case managers individually, that gets to them."

Turnover among caseworkers increased from 17 percent last year to 19 percent, according to the department's annual report submitted Wednesday to the committee, which includes lawmakers and officials from the governor's administration.

The annual report makes the same statement that media coverage of the department hurt morale, but makes no mention of individual caseworkers being targeted.

The South Bend Tribune was among the newspapers reporting on the agency. DCS in March lost its court fight against the newspaper to keep details of a May 2011 call to the state's child abuse hotline secret. The call detailed abuse in a South Bend home where 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis was beaten to death last November.

DCS spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland pointed to a story about Sturgis' death as an example of the media targeting individual caseworkers. However, the Tribune story did not include the name of that caseworker.

Ryan told the panel that along with media coverage, low pay was cited in anonymous employee surveys as a top reason they were leaving the agency. Starting pay for caseworkers, he said, is at about $33,500.

"How much more than that would make a noticeable difference in retention?" asked Budget Committee Chairman Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale.

Ryan said a 10-percent increase would help. He estimated his agency spends about $60 million annually on caseworker salaries.

Ryan's arguments on Wednesday mirror similar criticism that Gov. Mitch Daniels made at a meeting of DCS employees, where he accused the media of distorting the agency's troubles.

DCS has suffered through state budget cuts like most other state agencies in the last few years. The department was cut by $100 million in the 2011 budget, and cut by $16 million in the 2012 budget.


  • Case Workers
    So many parents are so totally broken or are using behavior changing drugs, that they abuse and neglect their kids. It's impossible for any government agency to keep track of every person who goes off the deep end. Maybe you would like to have a low paying job that requires you to put your life in danger every day? The stress must be unbearable. If we could only know exactly what goes on inside of every parent's home, maybe we could remove endangered kids before their own PARENTS kill them.
  • You're Kidding - Right?
    The media did it! Are you kidding me? Now I am guessing that transparency is too intrusive when it comes to certain government agencies. As for the salary issue, it was well defined in the initial job description, along with the requirements for the job. If a salary increase is required, perhaps the agency could refer to it as "media intrusion allowance pay" and the job description can point out that the enemy is statewide media personnel. I apologize to all, I would have thought of improved communication training for department personnel before blaming outside agencies that just ask tough questions.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Only half a million TV Viewers? And thats an increase? I knew Indycar was struggling but I didn't know it was that bad. Hell, if NASCAR hits 5 Million viewers everyone starts freaking out saying its going down hill. It has a long way to before Indycar even hits NASCAR's bad days.

  2. IU has been talking that line for years with no real progress even with the last Dean, Dr. Brater. Why will an outsider, Dr. Hess, make a difference? With no proof of additional resources (cash in the bank), and a concrete plan to move an academic model that has been outdated for decades with a faculty complacent with tenure and inertia, I can count on IU to remain the same during the tenure of Dr. Hess. One ought to look to Purdue and Notre Dame for change and innovation. It is just too bad that both of those schools do not have their own medical school. Competition might wake up IU. My guess is, that even with those additions to our State, IU will remain in its own little world squandering our State's tax dollars. Why would any donor want to contribute to IU with its track record? What is its strategy to deal with the physician shortage for our State? New leadership will not be enough for us to expect any change.

  3. How do you think the Bridges got approved? I spent a couple days researching PAC's and individual contributions to some city council members during that time. My printouts were inches thick on the two I concentrated on. Finally gave up. Was disgusted with all the donations, and who they were from. Would have taken me days and days to compile a complete list. Tried to give it to the Star reporter, but he thought it was all just fine. (and apparently he was treated well himself) He ended up being laid off or fired though. And then of course, there was land donated to the dad's club, or city, as a partial payoff. All done in the shining example of "charity." No, none of these contributions are a coincidence.

  4. I agree what kind of help or if any will be there for Dr. Ley's patients. I was a patient myself.

  5. What about the hundreds of patients who sought this doctor for the right reasons, to quit drugs. what option do these patients now have, experience horrible withdrawl or return to heroin?? those are the choices. what about the children of these former addicts who's parent(s) WILL not b able to maintain their job, for @ least 2 weeks.. There needs to b an emergency clinic opened for these patients.