The Department of Child Services (DCS) was established in January 2005 by an executive order of Governor Mitch Daniels to provide more direct attention and oversight in two critical areas: protection of children and child support enforcement.
That same year, the legislature approved funding for the new agency in the state’s budget and enacted best practices for caseload management of family case managers. Family case managers are tasked with investigating and serving abused and neglected children and their families.
A legislative working group determined that the Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) recommendations for caseload management would be adopted to ensure that every child and family in need of services is properly cared for. Those standards state that each case manager shall have no more than 12 active cases relating to initial assessments of child abuse and neglect cases, and 17 children monitored and supervised in ongoing cases. These caseload standards are commonly referred to as the 12/17 caseload standards. DCS has experienced staffing problems in the past and has had difficulty meeting these standards.
At a December Budget Agency hearing, DCS officials stated that only 1 of the state’s 19 regions were currently in compliance with the state law mandating the 12/17 caseload standards. They went on to say that DCS would need an additional 77 family case managers across the state in order to meet the requirement. However, the agency did not request any additional funding to hire the case managers needed to be comply with the law, and instead suggested a study of the standards.
DCS testified that reports to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline rose 71 percent in 6 years and Hotline staff fielded nearly 190,000 reports in 2013. The Hotline received an average of 539 calls per weekday in 2013. From 2013 to 2014, the number of Children in Need of Services (CHINS) cases rose nearly 8 percent from 13,684 to 14,763. The state of Indiana defines a Child in Need of Services as a minor who has experienced abuse, neglect, sexual abuse or other negative conditions. A full definition is available here, In their presentation, DCS officials also noted the agency was wrestling with negative turnover among its family case managers. More than 1 in 6 family case managers left the agency altogether in 2013. The top reasons cited for leaving DCS were job pressure/work-related stress and workload.
Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane wrote a letter to the governor raising concern with DCS’s refusal to meet standards enacted to protect children. Senator Lanane wrote a letter to DCS Director Bonaventura requesting more information regarding the agency’s 12/17 compliance in advance of their meeting to discuss issues surrounding DCS. The meeting is scheduled for December 16.