Columbia, S.C. -
The South Carolina Department of Social Services will ask lawmakers next year for the budget to hire 202 more people, 109 of which would be caseworkers to lessen the burden on those with heavy caseloads now. The rest would be supervisors.
Jessica Hanak-Coulter, Deputy Director for Human Services at DSS, told a state Senate DSS Oversight Subcommittee about the request at a hearing Wednesday at the Statehouse. "We would need the 202 new staff in order to meet that ideal caseload methodology. There was a lot of assessment, a lot of research of other states and other things to come to that," she says.
Senators who’ve been investigating problems at DSS were asking her about current caseloads. Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, said, while looking at a chart of caseworkers’ caseloads, "One in York County with 101, there was one in Lexington with 106, another in Lexington with 103, another in Lexington with 89, one with 95, one with 94, one with 98. And then at the same time there are caseworkers that have one or two. Why is that?"
Hanak-Coulter said the ones with one or two cases were either supervisors or new employees still being trained. She said some of the heavy caseloads were caused by workers resigning, leaving county offices short-handed but with children who still had to be seen.
She says it would cost about $10 million to hire the 202 additional people, about two-thirds of which could be paid for by the federal government.
She says the agency will shoot for an ideal caseload of one worker handling no more than 24 children.
Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, says it will cost taxpayers more to fix the agency. “I think the people of South Carolina will understand that. At least I hope they do, and maybe we'll have to take money from someplace else to do it, but it's going to be money well spent because it's for the children of South Carolina and family protective services, and we need to protect the children and families of South Carolina," she said after the meeting.
The subcommittee will meet again to hear testimony from other states about what they’re doing successfully.