A lawsuit filed on behalf of a Department of Child Services family case manager contends her caseload is more than twice what Indiana law allows and the excessive work puts children at risk.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court on Tuesday on behalf of DCS family case manager Mary Price and all other DCS family case managers.
The class-action lawsuit alleges DCS is violating an Indiana law that mandates the maximum number of caseloads for family case managers at 17. Price said her current caseload is 43 children.
"We are asking the court for an injunction to force DCS to address the urgent need for more case managers," said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director.
DCS spokesman James Wide said the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.
State officials have acknowledged DCS' failure to comply with mandated caseload standards. Agency Director Mary Beth Bonaventura said the agency is handling more cases and a higher volume of calls to its child abuse and neglect hotline. Reports to the hotline rose 81.5 percent, from 109,489 in 2009 to 198,684 in 2014, state records show.
Family case managers investigate allegations of abuse and neglect against children and handle ongoing case management for kids in the child welfare system. In the lawsuit, Price argues that she and other family case managers are struggling to keep up despite working more than 40 hours per week, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Price's lawsuit also argues that excessive caseloads lead to higher employee turnover, as employees leave for jobs that are less stressful and demanding, the newspaper reported.
Earlier this year, DCS officials sought and received funding to hire 100 more family case managers. But the lawsuit contends DCS still doesn't have enough funding to cover the number of employees needed to meet required caseload limitations.