INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 15, 2015) - The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a class action lawsuit against the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). The ACLU claims case managers for DCS are overworked, and as a result, are unable to protect thousands of children across the state.
ACLU lawyers claim DCS is breaking Indiana law. In the suit, the ACLU represents a case manager responsible for 43 cases. The state required maximum is 17.
The ACLU has filed a preliminary injunction requesting immediate action on behalf of the Indiana General Assembly to hire enough DCS case workers to get the case load down to a legal level.
“This isn’t a lawsuit about case managers having to work too hard. This is a lawsuit about what happens when case managers are not able to do their job,” said Ken Falk, the Legal Director for the ACLU of Indiana.
“Hopefully the lawsuit will remind people that when the legislature says that there shall be efficient staff to achieve these levels, that the legislature itself takes that seriously and gives enough money to alleviate all the problems that give rise to the fact that at the current time, my client is handling 43 cases when the statute says she’s supposed to have 17,” said Falk.
Falk doesn’t blame DCS for the department’s shortcoming. Constant case manager turnover, and massive case loads he says is due to a lack of DCS funding from the state legislature.
“The legislature has set the rules and the legislature has to abide by its own rules,” he said.
“The Governor’s request looked to me like it should be adequate to really solve this problem and also required some management work inside the department,” said State Senator Luke Kenley (R – Noblesville).
Kenley was a part of this year’s Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee that approved extra funding to hire 100 additional case managers.
The ACLU claims that move did not go nearly far enough.
“It just shows how tough that problem is when you have more than four times as many case workers as you used to have and yet there’s still a squeaky wheel issue,” said Kenley.
In a statement on the suit DCS Director, Mary Beth Bonaventura issued this statement:
“Lawsuits are distractions from the essential efforts underway to help children in need. Our commitment to Hoosier children is genuine and resolute, and we are 100 percent engaged in hiring more caseworkers and increasing training opportunities as directed by Governor Pence and the 2015 General Assembly. By July 27, we will have hired all of the newly-created positions for our 100 Family Case Managers and their training will then commence immediately. DCS is working diligently to bring help and hope to children affected by the tragedy of child abuse.”
The ACLU legal team is hoping more case managers will join in this class action lawsuit.