ACLU: State is putting children at risk by overloading caseworkers

By Aubrey Helms
TheStatehousefile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The American Civil Liberties Union is trying to protect some of the state’s most vulnerable children through a lawsuit meant to ease the burden on overloaded caseworkers.

State law prohibits caseworkers from taking on more than 17 children at a time. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, is on behalf of Mary Price. Price is a caseworker who has 43 children under her supervision – more than double the limit.

The basis of the lawsuit is that “it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to effectively meet all their needs even when [Price] works significantly more than 40 hours per week,” according to a statement from the ACLU.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly put $7.5 million in additional funding for caseworkers in the current two-year state budget beginning. The figure is set to cover the cost of adding 100 additional caseworkers.

According to the ACLU, the suit is filed now because that’s when the complaint from Price came in.

“The state’s announced fix doesn’t go far enough to fix the problem,” said a spokeswoman for the ACLU.

“It’s not enough to simply pass laws that say we’ll do the right thing,” said ACLU of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar in a statement. “The purpose of caseload limits is the safety and welfare of vulnerable children. We expect government to meet the letter and the spirit of the law, providing children with the protections they deserve.”

“We have not been served with this complaint,” Bryan Corbin of the Attorney General’s Office said in an email. “As state government’s lawyer which defends the State’s interests in lawsuits and protects taxpayer dollars, the Attorney General’s Office will confer with our state agency client; and the State will respond in court at the appropriate time to the plaintiff’s lawyer’s allegations.”

A call to the Department of Child Services was not immediately returned.

Aubrey Helms is the broadcast coordinator for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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