The Indiana Department of Child Services will be cutting about 75 to 80 workers, which consists of local financial positions such as bookkeepers and account clerks, as the state is moving to centralize its work force in Indianapolis.
The department had up to 195 financial worker positions, 160 of which were filled, before the decision to consolidate was made, said Ann Houseworth, the department’s communications director. “Statewide administrative operations will shift to [the] DCS central office and will result in an elimination of all local office fiscal positions,” said a letter from Douglas Weinberg, chief financial officer for DCS, to child services employees.
About half of those workers — 75 to 80 — were already located in the central office; the remaining workers were located a local branch offices and are the employees now being cut.
The roots of the restructuring go back to 2008, with the implementation of House Bill 1001, which allowed the property tax caps to be put into place and changed the funding structure to several government entities. The local child services offices formerly collected money from local property taxes.
After the funding mechanism was changed, the task of funding the local offices became too daunting, Houseworth said. The consolidation effort is likely to take place in late March or early April and be finalized by June, Houseworth said.
The transition is expected to save the state about $2 million to $2.5 million annually, according to an Associated Press report.
For those employees that are being eliminated, Indiana does not offer a severance package, but the employees will receive priority consideration if they choose to apply for other state positions, Houseworth said.
But workers in local offices where the positions are being eliminated believe the number of employees being affected is woefully underestimated.
“The article from Indy [the Indianapolis Star published a report on the consolidation effort written by the Associated Press] makes it look like they’re only going to be 80 [layoffs], but it looks like it’ll be closer to 300,” said Kathy Stepp, a secretary at the local DCS office.
Stepp said that between three and four employees will be affected in each county, and with 92 counties in the state, that would equal between 276 and 368 workers.
Eight employees in Clark and Floyd Counties will be affected, according to Betty Adams, account clerk supervisor in Clark County.
Adams, a state employee for
32 years, is one of those being laid off and will be forced into early retirement.
“It was an announcement that really caught us off guard,” she said.
The support that the financial staff provides to the rest of those workers is something that Adams feels will be greatly missed and will affect those remaining in DCS offices. The financial staff acts as a support system for not only the workers in the local offices, but for vendors, providers and foster parents.
“They run the office basically,” Stepp said.
Among the support they provide is to help everyone understand the financial changes that have occurred recently. The financial employees have been training on a new system, which was recently enacted.
“The thing we’re disheartened [with] the most is they used us to get this program up and running ... then we were disposed of,” Adams said. “Early on, they told us nobody would lose [their] jobs.”
Among the changes, the new system will allow the foster parents to enter their own invoices into a computer program, a task currently carried out by the financial staff.
“I think there is a high chance for inaccuracy and errors that will additionally slow down processing times,” Adams said. “It’s a very good possibility statewide that there will be slower processing.”
The amount of people that will be affected after the consolidation has been completed in June may be broad.
“Anyone who gets paid will be affected,” Stepp said. “[Gov. Mitch Daniels] wants to run us like a business, and you can’t do that.”
Stepp cited the failure of Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Family Resources program, in which IBM was hired to consolidate services and removed local employee support, as an example.
The modernization program for FSSA was designed to centralize payment services and application review. The program had been implemented in 59 counties in Indiana and allowed nearly 800,000 Medicaid patients to use the Internet, telephone or still visit a county office to apply for benefits.
However, the program was drowning in problems.
Complaints included information needing to be submitted five to six times before being acknowledged as received by the state; the state call center staff hanging up if they were asked too many questions or when they got frustrated with providers; and even nursing homes not accepting patients who are Medicaid-pending because the homes cannot rely on coverage being approved retroactively or timely, according to a previous report.
As a result, the state canceled a 10-year, $1.6 billion contract in October with IBM Corp. and Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc., which was running the program.
The fear for the employees with the DCS is the new consolidation effort could be a repeat of FSSA’s debacle.
“They talk about creating jobs and one of the best things an agency can do is to have people out there to support providers,” Adams said. “I don’t think money is the valid excuse. I feel like they are not seeing what effect this could have on the local offices.”
Stepp agreed, adding that she not only worries about her job being cut in the future — she is not one of the employees being laid off — but what will happen when the financial positions are officially eliminated.
“When you start seeing the foundation go like that, it’ll fall like dominoes.”
SO YOU KNOW
• The Indiana Department of Child Services is designed to care for children by providing oversight in two areas: protection of children and child support enforcement. DCS protects children and strengthens families through services that focus on family support and preservation.
Those services include providing child protection case managers, family case managers, administering child support, child protection, adoption and foster care throughout the state. The mission of the department is to protect children from abuse and neglect by partnering with families and communities to provide safe, nurturing and stable homes.
— Information from the Indiana DCS Web site: www.in.gov/dcs/index.htm
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