DHS Leaders Say More Foster Care Caseworkers Needed

Nov 18, 2015

DHS Division of Children and Family Services head Cecile Blucker speaking to legislators in Little Rock Wednesday.
Credit Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

Foster care officials are pointing to a shortage of caseworkers as numbers of children in the state's system steadily increase.

Division of Children and Family Services director, Cecile Blucker, and staff from the Department of Human Services, spoke to lawmakers Wednesday.

They said the number of foster kids has grown by about 700 in the last few months to 4,600. According to Blucker, 7,600 children are protective service cases and are living at home. 

Blucker said there’s been a 50 percent turnover rate within the last year and a shortage of case workers to help.  She says her division handles over 3,000 investigations a month. 

"You look at the complexities of the child welfare cases coupled with the inexperience of workers, that creates some challenges," she said.

"If you've got new supervisors, you've got new OCC attorneys, you've got new judges, it can create some interesting dynamics for families,” added Blucker. 

According to DHS, many case workers are currently earning overtime at 50 to 60 or more hours a week. 

Governor Asa Hutchinson  requested an investigation into DHS that was released earlier this year, following media reports of mishandled child abuse investigations and inadequate placements for kids. 

About 75 percent of foster children are without a foster home.