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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indiana’s Department of Child Services is focusing its reform efforts on reducing turnover rather than caseloads.

An independent review concluded state law requires DCS to file too many cases. It recommended cutting caseloads the way neighboring states have: by defining more narrowly what constitutes abuse, and who qualifies as a caregiver who can be charged with it. Governor Holcomb embraced the report in June, vowing to implement all its recommendations. But DCS associate director Todd Meyer says both the agency and legislators felt a more limited law risked leaving the state powerless in some cases which demand intervention.

DCS is recommending new limits on how many families one caseworker should handle at once, though the current caps have often been ignored. Meyer predicts the real progress will begin later this month with pay raises Holcomb ordered as a way to reduce turnover.

DCS’s report to legislators recommends ending child welfare cases based solely on poverty, without any other family issues. But the agency deleted a recommendation to stay out of cases involving one-time lapses in judgment. Meyer says that’s another case where limiting the agency’s jurisdiction could rule out pursuing cases which deserve action.

Meyer says the agency wants the ability to make case-by-case decisions to avoid going to court, instead referring families to social service providers.

A legislative study committee spent the most time haggling over how quickly caseworkers should be required to respond to emergencies. The final recommendation settles on two hours — more than the current requirement, less than DCS suggested, and far less than the 24 hours proposed by the independent review. The Child Welfare Group argued in a true emergency, police would be taking the lead in the response anyway.

(Photo: Rudy Balasko/Thinkstock)