DCS to conduct workload analysis in wake of caseload challenges

Indiana News

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana’s Department of Child Services will conduct a workload analysis study to assess whether it can manage its current case load without additional help. Some lawmakers have criticized the agency’s response to recent cases, saying it is critically understaffed.

The agency’s response came from its Director, Mary Beth Bonventura, in the form of an op-ed released late Wednesday. In it, Boneventura writes that she is well aware that child welfare case workers – known as family case managers, or FCM – have seen recent increases in caseloads.

“There are several factors that contributed to this issue. Among them is the increased number of child abuse and neglect reports to our Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. For example, in 2009, we received 109,489 reports to the hotline compared to 198,633 in 2014. This increase resulted in a corresponding, but smaller, increase in assessments and ongoing cases,” she writes.

In November, the agency’s chief of staff told the State Budget Committee that only one of its 19 regions is meeting the workload standards for case workers. State law requires DCS family case managers to average no more than 12 initial assessments or 17 ongoing cases per worker.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) contended the law must be immediately complied with. Other legislators have made similar calls in recent months. Lanane also called on Governor Mike Pence to push for an additional $5 million in appropriations for the Department of Child Services. That would allow the department to hire 77 additional FCM’s, he said.

“It’s time to do the right thing and give DCS the resources it needs to hire the 77 caseworkers and comply with the law,” Lanane said during his Monday news conference. “The law is the law and we must do what it takes to ensure the safety of children.”

Boneventura has previously said the current standard might be obsolete since case managers’ duties have changed during the last few years. She further responded to those calls in Wednesday’s statement, saying DCS will study its options, and present the findings prior to the end of the 2015 legislative session in April.

“Our team decided to have a workload analysis conducted, to assess the time demands of all FCM duties. It will include not only tasks directly related to working on cases, but also time spent on non case related activities. For instance, a case involving a child with complex medical needs may require different time demands than other cases on a worker’s caseload. Moreover, the study will evaluate worker differences; like years of experience, and determine what, if any impact they have on the ability of a family case manager to effectively manage a caseload of a particular size,” she wrote.Director Boneventura’s op-ed appears below in its entirety:Arguably one of the toughest jobs in this country is a Child Welfare Case Worker, in Indiana it is our Family Case Manager (FCM). Fortunately, for Hoosier families, Indiana has some of the most committed workers on the front lines to protect children from abuse and neglect. As the Director of the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), I lead an agency where very critical decisions are made daily, which have long-term impacts on children and families. Although we have a staff of professionals trained to make informed decisions that will best protect children, I take each decision made by our agency personally.I am aware that our FCMs are carrying higher caseloads, and there are several factors that contributed to this issue. Among them is the increased number of child abuse and neglect reports to our Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. For example, in 2009, we received 109,489 reports to the hotline compared to 198,633 in 2014. This increase resulted in a corresponding, but smaller, increase in assessments and ongoing cases.There has been much discussion about the 12/17 regional average caseload standard. Indiana adopted this standard in 2007 as a best practice; however, FCM duties are very different today, compared to 2007. For instance, many ancillary (yet still critical) duties were shifted from FCMs in the field, as DCS created specialized case worker roles; such as relative care specialists, foster care specialists, and hotline intake specialists.In State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2013, DCS received funding from the legislature for an additional 136 field FCMs and 75 FCM supervisor positions. In SFY 2014, DCS added 110 FCM positions. At the close of SFY 2104 there remained a need for 77 more FCMs to meet the current caseload standard. That would translate to nearly 400 new staff for DCS in the last two years alone. Given the changes that DCS has experienced over the past few years, it was prudent for us to evaluate how those changes have impacted FCM workloads. Let me be clear; I would never sacrifice child safety for financial savings.Our team decided to have a workload analysis conducted, to assess the time demands of all FCM duties. It will include not only tasks directly related to working on cases, but also time spent on non case related activities. For instance, a case involving a child with complex medical needs may require different time demands than other cases on a worker’s caseload. Moreover, the study will evaluate worker differences; like years of experience, and determine what, if any impact they have on the ability of a family case manager to effectively manage a caseload of a particular size.The analysis will identify process and practice improvements that could be implemented to support best practices in child welfare. Such analysis will explore what duties might be shifted from FCMs and ways we can better leverage technology to most effectively support FCM job duties. DCS will receive recommendations prior to the end of the 2015 legislative session. This ambitious timeframe is imperative in the event we need to seek legislative changes. We will work with the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly to implement recommendations, including adding staff if needed.As the Director of DCS, I am committed to making sure all staff have the resources they need to support the mission, vision and values of the agency. I am especially proud of the dedication our workers throughout the state display each day to protect Hoosier children from abuse and neglect and ensure their financial support.

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