New statistics reveal turnover is on the rise for family case managers at the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Documents just released shows a 21.5 percent average turnover rate for the state from July 2011 to June 2012.
That's an increase from 20.7 percent turnover in the July 2010 to June 2011 time frame.
"Negative turnover" increased as well, which is defined as turnover where an employee leaves the agency, which includes resignations, retirements and terminations.
Child advocates told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney any kind of turnover, even within the agency, is a concern because it means a new case worker has to get caught up again.
DCS Human Resources Director Doris Tolliver said the agency pays attention to all types of turnover.
"Each employee that leaves, those cases have to be transferred to another family case manager, and that has an impact on that case and that family," said Tolliver. "Our turnover has a direct impact on the lives of children and families."
The Call 6 Investigators have not been able to find any national standard with regard to turnover at child welfare agencies, but DCS told RTV6 they are aiming for 15 percent turnover.
Records show some counties fall within that target, while others exceed it.
Marion County has 30 percent turnover, Monroe County 47 percent and Dubois County reported 120 percent turnover.
"That 120 percent reflects repeat turnover that occurred within a given position," said Tolliver, who pointed out some counties only have one or two people working.
"We do have to look at not only the percentage, but also the number that represents," Tolliver added.
Tolliver said typically urban areas experience higher turnover because there are more job opportunities than in rural areas.
At the DCS Child Abuse Hotline, based in downtown Indianapolis, the turnover rate is at 50 percent.
"It's not alarming," said Tolliver. "We would expect to see higher turnover in any call center type of environment."
In DCS's annual report just released for fiscal year 2012, the agency blamed compensation, stress and media scrutiny for the turnover increase.
"The intense media coverage had a marked impact on employee morale and is reflected in the significant increase in turnover that began in January 2012," read the report.
Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, who is a member of the DCS Interim Study Committee, took exception to those comments.
"The administration is responsible to address turnover," said Riecken via text message to Kenney. "Blaming the media is the wrong direction. They need to look within."
"We do know there's been an increased emphasis focused on the worker level," said Tolliver. "What happens to kids is media worthy."
Annual compensation for family case managers starts at around $33,000.
"The economic reality is that does have an impact, and we know in the private sector, they can offer a more competitive wage than we can as a state," said Tolliver.
Tolliver said the agency is working to improve turnover by boosting pay and morale.
"We're mindful of that," said Tolliver. "We have a lot of training opportunities for staff and opportunities for them to come together."
The DCS Interim Study Committee is expected to look into the issue when lawmakers meet later this summer, but a date has not been set.