Indiana House passes Child Services bill to lower caseworker loads

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – In recent months, Gov. Eric Holcomb and state legislators committed to fixing Indiana’s Department of Child Services.

Lawmakers have gone back and forth in recent months about how to fix Child Services. The workload of caseworkers was a recurring theme. This bill, if passed, would try to take a load off of those caseworkers.

On Tuesday, House representatives unanimously approved the bill. It now goes to the Senate to see if it’ll be assigned a committee.

Often Child Services’ caseworkers are stressed, overworked and just plain burned out. “They have a very tough job. What we’re trying to do is give them the tools to make them successful,” state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, a Republican from Avon, said. 

Steuerwald filed the bill to lower the number of Child Services cases a family case manager can have at a time.

After a 2018 Child Services audit and testimony, lawmakers decided 12 cases at a time is enough. That’s down from from the 17 cases now.

“It’s much more manageable,” Steuerwald said. “They’re able to do their job better. They’re not overworked, they’re not overstressed. We tried to find the right spot.” 

The bill makes another change.

Now, if Child Services gets a report that a child is in danger of being seriously hurt, Steuerwald said, the agency has an hour to start an on-site assessment. The bill bumps that up to two hours. 

“The discussion was: What’s a reasonable time upon which a caseworker can be notified?” Steuerwald said. “Sometimes in the middle of the night and be able to actually get up and physically get to the scene.” 

The bill also would let foster care children keep getting collaborative services until they’re 21.

Though state Rep. Phil GiaQuinta approves of the bill, he said it needs more oomph.

The Democrat from Fort Wayne said, “It lacks the teeth we believe it should have. That was the amendment that Rep. (Ryan) Hatfield tried to put in the bill last Friday, which we believe would have required the caseworkers needed if you went over the limit.” 

Hatfield is a Democrat from Evansville.

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