Indiana Child Services director outlines $286M budget plan

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana’s troubled Department of Child Services wants $286 million of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s proposed budget. 

On Wednesday, an in-depth look at some of the things Child Services wants to do with that money was presented to state legislators. 

“We need to make sure we are working with the right children, at the right time and providing the right intervention.” said Terry Stigdon, the Department of Child Services (DCS) director. “Anything that’s involved in that, that’s what our focus is. Really getting on track as a child welfare agency.” 

Since a Child Services audit last spring, Stigdon said, the department has made progress to keep employees. 

“It’s important for our workforce in DCS to know their voice is heard.” Stigdon said.

To combat case manager turnover, Child Services has expanded the tuition-free scholars’ program at Indiana University that offers students a job in the department after graduation. They also want to boost supervisor training.

“There’s leadership development. We need to make sure our leaders are prepared to provide what is needed for folks that they supervise,” Stigdon said.

More than 3,600 Child Services workers got a raise in October.

Stigdon also wants to add mentors in Indiana’s larger counties.

“The mentors are really for that family case manager. That’s new,” Stigdon said. “To provide that support in the field when they have questions, to sit by they if them have new situations they’re dealing with.”

Stigdon says Child Services had almost 24,000 open cases in December. For her, the caseload reduction matters.

“Whenever there’s a family case manager that leaves, those cases have to go to someone. So, they overload the case managers that are left,” the Child Services leader said. “Then they get tired, and they might leave. When we stabilize that, we in turn, stabilize the caseloads right there.” 

Stigdon told lawmakers there were less children in traditional nonrelative foster homes in December compared to 2013, and more children were placed in relatives homes instead. That’s considered to be a good thing for the children.

“But, I still think we can do better,” Stigdon said. “We have put some things in place to help with that.”

No action was taken Wednesday. It’s up to lawmakers whether or not this budget ask is approved.

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