Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

State Child Services in Trouble ; Abuse Hotline,staff Turnover among Problems

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

State Child Services in Trouble ; Abuse Hotline,staff Turnover among Problems

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS - Officials with the Indiana Department of Child Services acknowledged problems Wednesday with the agency's centralized hotline for reporting instances of abuse and neglect and with its ability to retain caseworkers. The admissions came during the first of a series of meetings with a panel of state legislators investigating complaints against the department.

John Ryan, the department's chief of staff, admitted Indiana needs to improve those areas even as he laid out a series of metrics detailing how the agency ranked compared with other states - and how that standing has improved since 2004.

It was the first meeting of the Indiana General Assembly's study committee that has planned at least five sessions to investigate the Department of Child Services. State Rep. Gail Riecken, D- Evansville, asked Wednesday if at least two of those sessions could be held outside the Statehouse.

Ryan choked back tears as he pledged to listen carefully - even though public testimony wasn't allowed in the first meeting.

"Thank goodness for critics," Ryan said. "We need folks to question; we need individuals to say, 'Is that the right thing to do?' And if we didn't have those folks, nothing would change."

A long line of DCS staffers testified in front of the panel Wednesday as they moved through a 151-page presentation detailing all of the agency's procedures.

One area where it has fallen short of its goals is caseworker retention, according to Doris Tolliver, the department's deputy director of human resources.

The agency has set a target of retaining all but 15 percent of its caseworkers each year. It started tracking that statistic in 2007, and since then has not yet met its target, she said.

In 2007, 17.6 percent of the agency's caseworkers left. That number climbed to a peak of 20.4 percent turnover in 2008, and was 19.8 percent in 2012.

"We still have turnover that is very costly, not only from a fiscal perspective but from a child welfare perspective," Ryan said, adding that cases are set back when they are transferred from one caseworker to another.

The DCS has been the focus of attention after several child deaths. …

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