Lexington, SC (WLTX) - For months now, the South Carolina Department of Social Services has vowed to develop a ratio that would put limits on how many cases a worker can have.
Former DSS State Director Lillian Kolle, and the agency's 2013 Annual Progress and Services Report said the caseload methodology would be handed over to the feds by last month.
After we started asking questions, DSS said Wednesday they'll have it ready sometime in the next month.
"There is nothing more important at the Department of Social Services than the work we do protecting our at-risk children and strengthening families," an agency spokeswoman said. "To improve the procedures and methods our caseworkers practice, DSS is still in the process of developing a system and set of standards that will reduce caseloads and improve outcomes – something we hope to announce in the next month. Our caseworkers have some of the toughest jobs in the state and giving them the support and guidance they need to be successful is our top priority."
"We have to set those guidelines now," said Sue Berkowitz, who runs Appleseed Legal Justice.
She points to national child welfare organizations, like the Child Welfare League of America, which have already developed standards that are used in other states.
"I find it interesting that South Carolina needs different standards than what the experts have already put together," Berkowitz said.
Among Midlands counties, new case data shows workers in Lexington have the highest case average at 24. The snapshot from May 19 shows 6 workers have at least 40 cases each.
Averages for other counties are:
Fairfield - 10
Kershaw - 20
Clarendon - 10
Richland - 17
Lee - 11
Sumter - 18
Calhoun - 8
Newberry - 22
Orangeburg - 9
Saluda - 10
The averages do not include supervisors or trainees who have 1 case.
"We're in the process right now of determining what is the right work the right way. What are the actions to take," said Malik Whitaker, a DSS Regional Director.
If someone who is a caseworker has a high caseload, they're not going to be able to put the time, and energy, and investigation, and follow up that's needed to protect children," Berkowitz said.
Late Wednesday, DSS contacted News19 saying,"We submitted the standards on June 30th as required and are awaiting their response. We included a draft of the new caseload methodology which we plan to roll out in the coming month."