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ACLU of Indiana statement on DCS Supreme Court case

Aug. 28, 2017

Indianapolis – On August 28, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a decision ending a case brought by a DCS caseworker challenging the failure of DCS to adequately staff the agency as required by law.

In July, 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana brought the class-action lawsuit against DCS on behalf of case manager Mary Price and other case managers for violating Indiana Code § 31-25-2-5, which mandates the maximum number of caseloads case managers may have. The services that DCS provides are intended to "ensure a child's safety and promote family stability," according to the Supreme Court decision.

According to the law, a case manager may supervise no more than 12 children at one time. Price carried a caseload of 43 children. Case managers argue that DCS does not allow them to keep caseloads at levels that allow children to be effectively protected and served.

The Indiana Supreme Court wrote: "This statute requires only a particular outcome -- caseloads cannot exceed seventeen children per case manager -- and does not require the Department to take specified steps to achieve that outcome." The court decision held that DCS could not be compelled to comply with its terms

"The vital societal importance of the services provided by DCS case managers cannot be overestimated," said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. "This is something everyone in the state of Indiana should be concerned about. There's a problem here that still hasn't been solved, and we'll need to see if there's other ways to resolve it."

The decision, Mary Price, et al., v. Indiana Department of Child Services, Case No. 49S05-1705-PL-285 was decided in the Indiana Supreme Court on Aug. 28, 2017.

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