INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence requested a funding increase Wednesday so that the Indiana Department of Child Services could add more than 100 staffers, following criticism of the agency for not meeting the state law setting workload standards for case managers.
The request comes with the completion of an agency study started after DCS officials acknowledged in November that most of its child welfare workers had larger-than-allowed caseloads.
Pence asked the Legislature to add $7.5 million a year to the new state budget to hire 100 more family case managers and 17 supervisors.
"We just simply want to do right by our kids," the governor said. "We want to make sure that we have the proper number of personnel that can be both investigative and providing the appropriate accountability and supervision for vulnerable children in Indiana."
Agency leaders said that only one of its 19 regions has been meeting the 2007 law requiring DCS case managers to average no more than 12 initial assessments or 17 ongoing cases per worker.
Pence's January budget proposal did not request money for additional case workers, with administration officials saying they first wanted the outside study on workloads completed because some responsibilities have been shifted from those staffers in recent years.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, who had criticized Pence for not seeking additional DCS funding, said he was glad to see the governor's new request but that actions such as better pay for case workers was needed to help reduce turnover.
"The department study confirms that those standards are valid, that we do need additional case workers and staff to come into compliance and the plan now is get that funding to make sure that happens," said Lanane, D-Anderson.
The report from Deloitte Consulting also includes recommendations for steps that could see some cases closed sooner, additional staff training and work on a staff recruitment and retention plan, according to the child services agency. The agency now has about 1,700 case managers after adding some 320 positions in the past two years.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he supported Pence's funding request and that "there is no more important investment we can make than the safety of our children and the health of Hoosier families."
Pence said he believed the additional hiring would bring the agency into compliance with the caseload limits.
"What Deloitte tells us is this is the number to bring us where we need to be to keep faith with that standard that was adopted in 2007," he said.