The DCS has been under scrutiny following the recent release of a study that identified a number of areas where the agency could improve its efficiency. The study, which was commissioned by Deloitte Consulting, identified areas such as case count methodology, case closure initiatives, workforce planning and improving tool usage. It provided recommendations accordingly to make the agency more efficient.
The state has noticed. A new piece of legislation aims to adjust a number of administrative policies in the agency. House Bill 1434 makes various changes to child services and juvenile laws concerning criminal background checks, the responsibilities of the agency, regional ?service strategic plans and foster care, among others.
HB 1434 passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 96-0 and was amended and then passed in the Senate with a vote of 48-0. It is now being sent back to the Senate for concurrence.
State Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, offered an amendment to the bill that would have required the DCS to expend all money allocated to it in the state budget, although the amendment was not agreed on.
“I know the government thinks they are doing the right thing, but past history has demonstrated time and again that we do not need to be thinking about efficiency studies when we are talking about the protection of abused and neglected kids,” Niezgodski said in a press release. “DCS needs to do the job it’s charged to do — protect our children. This is about creating a safety net for our children, not our state treasury.”
Some of the biggest ?inefficiencies Deloitte pointed out include the high turnover rate for family case managers who investigate and follow up with cases of child abuse, excessive time spent on paperwork and administrative work, and backlogged assessments and case files.
According to the report, 44 percent of family case managers have been working at the DCS for less than two years, leading to inconsistencies in the flow of cases.
Current state laws restrict the number of cases that a family case manager can take on to 12 initial assessments or 17 ongoing cases per worker.
The report also notes that family case managers spend about 30 percent of their time doing tasks that could easily be performed by a paraprofessional, such as filing paperwork and making ?schedules.
In response to the study, Pence is requesting an additional $7.5 million per year to be allocated to DCS in order to hire an additional 117 ?employees.