Pence requests $15 million for 100 caseworkers over two years

Gov. Mike Pence has asked lawmakers for $15 million in additional funding over the next two years to hire 100 more caseworkers and 17 supervisors for the Department of Child Services.

The additional staff should bring the agency in line with caseload guidelines in state law, according to a new report that Deloitte Consulting released through DCS on Wednesday.

Pence said he shared the results with legislative leaders and wrote them a letter Wednesday formally requesting the additional money.

“We have no higher priority than the safety of our children,” Pence said. “When it comes to vulnerable children in the state of Indiana, the people of Indiana have been willing to provide the resources and the personnel to meet that. We will continue in that tradition today.”

Legislative leaders—including minority Democrats who’ve long been calling for additional funding for caseworkers—applauded the governor’s action. Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, had previously raised questions about whether the state was meeting the guidelines and said he didn’t think an outside study was necessary to answer the question.

Still, Lanane said he’ll be pushing hard for the extra funding.

“This is a good day for the protection of children,” he said.

The proposed new hires would come on top of the 246 new family case manager positions and 75 supervisors the state added in 2013 and 2014. In all, the state had 1,711 case manager positions at the start of this year. Over, the last decade, the number of case managers has doubled, Pence said.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he supports the governor’s call for even more.

“There is no more important investment we can make than the safety of our children and the health of Hoosier families,” Long said. “This is a critical issue that Republicans in the Statehouse have aggressively addressed over the past 10 years and we will continue to do so both now and in the future.”

DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura said earlier this year that caseworkers were handling higher loads in part because child abuse and neglect reports had increased in recent years. In 2009, the agency received 109,489 reports to its hotline compared to 198,633 in 2014, she said.

And Bonaventura said the guidelines developed in 2007 did not reflect changes that had moved some ancillary duties away from caseworkers onto other staff. The Deloitte study—which DCS commissioned in January for more than $560,000—included a workload analysis to assess the demands on the staff and non-case related activities.

But while Deloitte did propose other changes for DCS, it did not recommend changing the guidelines, which call for caseworkers to handle no more than 12 initial assessments and 17 ongoing cases.

Instead, the report includes a number of other training, efficiency and management changes to address other needs in the agency. It also recommended that DCS continue work it has already started:

— Restructure new family case manager training to provide more time in the field to refine skills.

— Develop techniques to improve efficiencies resulting in cases being safely closed sooner.

— Enhance family case manager supervisor training, which includes mentoring of caseworkers on their teams.

— Develop comprehensive staff recruitment and retention plans.

Pence said family case managers “have an incredibly difficult job.”

“We want to make sure not only that we’re meeting our statutory obligations in terms of the standards that have been set, but we just simply want to do right by our kids,” he said. “We want to make sure that we have the proper amount of personnel that can be investigating and providing the appropriate accountability and supervision for vulnerable children in Indiana.”

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