INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Senate's top Democrat on Monday faulted Republican Gov. Mike Pence for not seeking more money in his proposed budget so that the Department of Child Services could hire enough case managers to meet their workload levels under a state law.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, of Anderson, said he was troubled that Pence's budget proposal doesn't include the estimated $5 million it would cost to hire the 77 case workers that agency said it would take to meet the workload standard.
"I would challenge anybody to state a higher priority than the protection of children," Lanane said.
Agency leaders have said that only one of its 19 regions is meeting the 2007 law requiring DCS family case managers to average no more than 12 initial assessments or 17 ongoing cases per worker.
Brian Bailey, Pence's budget director, told the State Budget Committee last week that some responsibilities have been shifted from case workers in recent years and that a study of the current workloads is being done before any request will be made for additional hiring.
DCS spokesman James Wide said Monday that the agency expected to have the study finished by the end of the legislative session in April so that time would be available to pursue any changes to the law.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he was satisfied with the agency's plan to review case managers' current workloads. He said the high turnover among case workers also needs to be studied.
"Is it the salary? Is it the pressure or structure of the job that creates that?" he said.
Kenley said the state has significantly increased the number of DCS case workers to about 800 in recent years and that the agency is headed in the right direction.
"I know we need to get better, and I think we're committed to do that," he said.
Lanane said he had no objection to DCS reviewing whether the workload standards should be changed, but that study doesn't absolve the Pence administration of its responsibilities.
"These are legally mandated standards that they are supposed to be adhering to," he said. "We expected certainly every person to comply with the law and that would include the state of Indiana."