Dept. Of Child Services To Appeals Court: You Can't Make Us Hire More Caseworkers

Jul 20, 2016

The ACLU is appealing a trial court ruling that there was no standing for caseworker Mary Price to sue.
Credit Indiana Department of Child Services / http://www.in.gov/dcs/files/DCSLog150.jpg

Indiana’s Department of Child Services says it’s doing all it can to comply with caseload requirements in state law and that a court can’t order it to do more.

Lawyers for the agency made that case Wednesday before the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Indiana law says the Department of Child Services must provide enough caseworkers so that the average caseload doesn’t exceed 17 children.

All but one of the 19 regions in the state exceeds that standard. Caseworker Mary Price oversees 43 children.

The ACLU of Indiana sued DCS on Price’s behalf, trying to force the agency to hire more caseworkers. A trial court judge ruled that Price had no right to bring the suit and should use administrative channels.

In front of the Court of Appeals, attorney for DCS Frances Barrow, in an exchange with Appellate Judge Margret Robb, argued that even if Price can sue, DCS is already doing everything it can to meet the standards.

And Barrow says there’s nothing a court could further order them to do -- even as Judge Robb expressed skepticism:

“You’re saying it’s reasonable to ask them to do two-and-a-half to three times what the statute says they should be doing,” Robb asked Barrow.

“They are doing probably the most difficult job in state government,” Barrow responded.

But ACLU legal director Ken Falk says only the court system can provide a legitimate remedy.

“DCS’ failure to comply obviously hurts us all but it specifically injures the family case managers, whose caseloads are directly benefitted by the statute, if it would be complied with,” Falk says.

The appeals court did not indicate a timetable for its ruling.