ACLU case against DCS thrown out

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 23, 2016) - A lawsuit against the Department of Child Services was dismissed Monday. The ACLU in June filed the suit on behalf of a DCS case worker who claimed caseloads were dangerously high and putting children across the state at risk of abuse.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch ruled in favor of DCS and said in her 12-page ruling, it was not up to the court system to keep caseloads at a manageable level, rather, the Governor and General Assembly.

The ACLU has already promised to file an appeal.

“The Governor has either not appropriated the money or the legislature has not responded. Somewhere there’s a disconnect,” said Ken Falk, the Legal Director for the Indiana ACLU.

Falk filed the lawsuit on behalf of a former DCS Case Manager who claims she was working more than 40 cases at once.

“What is not a dispute in this case is that the ratios that are required and that were set up to ensure the safety of children in the state of Indiana are not being met,” said Falk.

It is currently law in Indiana that DCS case managers have no more than 17 cases at once. In June, according to DCS only one of the state’s 19 DCS regions was following that law.

“Those ratios are exceeded and every year, DCS, the Department of Child Services files a report with the legislature reporting how much they are over or under in that regard, but the problem still remains,” said Falk.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller requested the case be dismissed. In a statement following the ruling, he wrote:

“We have great respect for child protection caseworkers, who perform a very difficult, stressful duty in addressing the urgent needs of abused and neglected children. We appreciate the personal commitment these professionals make on behalf of the most vulnerable young Hoosiers. Under the law the Legislature passed it was decided that the judicial branch was not the proper place for this discussion. It ultimately is up to the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature to determine resources for the DCS and up to the executive branch to manage those resources.”

Less than 24 hours later, the ACLU is already promising to take this case back to court and filing an appeal.

“This is not a problem of workers who are overworked. This is a problem of children who are not being served,” said Falk.

DCS officials Tuesday said that they have already hired an additional 113 case managers that were mandated in an emergency order by Governor Mike Pence in 2015. As of September though the turnover rate for DCS case managers was 24 percent.

 

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