FOX59 Investigates: Number of DCS case worker resignations on track to be lower this year than 2017

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Newly released information from the Indiana Department of Child Services reveals the agency may be making some headway when it comes to retaining family case managers.

High turnover among case managers has been a concern for years in Indiana. Records obtained by FOX59 show the number of resignations for 2018 are on track to be lower than they were in 2017.

Here are how the numbers break down:

  • In 2016, there were 546 family case managers who resigned.
  • In 2017, there were 708 family case managers who resigned
  • So far in 2018, 542 family case managers have resigned

A recent assessment of the agency found there was a "culture of fear" among case managers who were also dealing with an overload of cases.

State Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem), a former family case manager, knows firsthand how this type of stress can impact the work environment.

"There was a time when there were three of us in an office," Houchin said. "I was handling 40 kids on my case load, up to 60 ongoing investigations, doing foster care licensing, adoption home studies."

Despite efforts to reduce caseloads after Houchin left her position, the problems persisted.

One report from fiscal year 2017 shows only two of the 19 DCS regions met the case load standards.

"Having those caseloads manageable and now taking another look at reducing those caseload weights or better managing that, I think would be a huge help to our case managers around Indiana," Houchin said.

The thorough assessment carried out by the Child Welfare Group earlier this year also found it was not uncommon to hear about caseloads of 25 to 35 children. The standard in Indiana is 17.

"One FCM had a caseload of 52 children, and several children were placed three to four hours away from the county," the consultants wrote in the final report.

The CWG report recommended caseloads be lowered. Gov. Eric Holcomb also provided DCS with $25 million in additional funding, which the agency was able to use to provide raises for a majority of its staff.

Sources say the raises have helped keep several workers on staff.

FOX59 reached out to DCS for comment about the number of resignations and the recommendations. A spokesperson sent over this statement:

"Improving workplace culture at DCS has been a top priority for our agency, as we recognize lower staff turnover rates promote better outcomes for Hoosier families. In June, CWG highlighted the need to address a perceived “culture of fear” among employees. We have taken immediate steps to do so every day since, including increasing caseworker salaries to be commensurate with those of child welfare employees in states like Indiana and forming staff-led advisory councils to ensure the voices of our boots on the ground are heard. Several weeks remain in the year, but we are pleased to identify a downward trend in our turnover rate and will continue to make efforts to support those who do such important work to protect Indiana’s children."

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