CALL 6: Senator: Better vetting needed at DCS before hiring

INDIANAPOLIS -- A state senator is calling for better vetting of DCS family case managers following a Call 6 Investigates report that showed a controversial, pro-white activist was hired and then fired weeks later.

CALL 6 | White nationalist hired, fired by DCS

Matthew Heimbach has been called a racist, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi for his controversial views on gays, Jews, and racial separatism.

DCS hired him on January 11th and fired him on January 28th after Heimbach’s fellow trainees discovered who he was and reported him to DCS supervisors.

“My reaction is concern that we don’t have the proper vetting,” said Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson).  “We need case workers who are comfortable working with people of diverse backgrounds.”

The state requires a slew of background checks including criminal history, sex offender registry, tax payment, fingerprinting, drug screening, past employment, educational verification and a CPS check.

However, the state does not require Google searches before hiring workers.

“I think due diligence could include (Googling),” said Lanane. “I know many employers do that as well as social media check, in terms of a person’s Facebook page.”

Lanane has been vocal about understaffing at DCS and the need to hire more family case managers.

MORE | Democrats push for hiring of more child welfare workers

He said Friday if DCS needs statutory authority to perform Google and social media searches on employees, he’s willing to help with that.

“They need to dig a little deeper and I know that calls for some additional time and maybe staff to do that,” said Lanane. “When it comes to protecting our children, we have to make sure we have people with good character. If they need some statutory authority to engage in that activity, certainly the General Assembly would be open to doing that.”

Lanane hopes to have a conversation with DCS about the issue.

The Anderson said the Call 6 Investigates story on Heimbach’s hiring and firing shows the agency can improve its procedures.

“It highlights the importance of doing something up front so that maybe you know the person’s background before you go through extensive training and before you even hire the person and have these things come to light,” said Lanane. “It’s all about due diligence in the hiring process.”

Some child advocates also expressed concern Friday about the importance of “cultural competency” when it comes to social work.

“Child welfare staff  in both public and private agencies must be able to respect, understand, and engage families and children from a variety of cultures and backgrounds,” said Cathleen Graham, executive director for the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy. “As a former State administrator of public child welfare services, I understand the value of having a training period for employees so that persons whose skills and attitudes are not appropriate for the job can be discharged from service.”

DCS and State Personnel have declined several requests for on camera interviews on the state’s hiring processes.

Heimbach did not pass his probationary period, according to Ashley Hungate, spokesperson for the Indiana State Personnel Department.

“Heimbach was not dismissed for political/religious opinions or affiliations,” said Hungate.  “He was dismissed for his behavior at work.  His behavior in training was disruptive of the workplace, incompatible with public service, and not protected speech. For example, what I’ve been told is that, while in training, his response to a question suggested violence against a client.”

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