Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The state Department of Social Services released a long awaited standard dictating how much work a caseworker should have.
"If we could do the ideal, then for those in the initial investigation period, it would be no more than 24 children per investigator," said DSS Deputy State Director Jessica Hanak Coulter.
Testifying Wednesday before Senators investigating DSS right now, she indicated meeting the mark would require a massive hiring blitz after the next years budget is approved.
"We would need to 202 new staff in order to meet that ideal caseload methodology," she said. "There was a lot of assessment, a lot of research of other states, and other things to come to that. We wanted to do ours based on the number of children and not the number of families."
. They believe the federal government would pay for 2/3 of the new costs.
"It is going to cost more money but I think it's something we need to do," said Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington).
Even with talk of a new caseload ratio, Shealy's county along with York and Charleston counties are still suffering from rosters of caseworkers with too many cases according to testimony.
"That's my serious concern," Shealy said.
Of the 202 suggested hires, 109 would be front line caseworkers and the rest would serve in supervisory roles.
DSS says it wants one supervisor for every 6 caseworkers across the state.
Right now, front line caseworkers can have a human services related bachelors degree.
One expert who testified Wednesday recommended a degree specific to social services.
"There is a horrific need out there," said Senator Joel Lourie (D-Richland). "I think we have an opportunity to do something we'll all look back on and say we made significant advances is protecting children."