From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Thanks to a commitment of resources from state government, the Division of Children and Family Services has been able to add case workers.
The Division’s family services workers now have lower case loads, and as a result they are able to complete more investigations in a timely manner.
During the first three months of 2022, the Division had an average of 428 family services workers.
They had an average of 23 cases per worker.
Compare that to five years ago, when their average case load was about 30.
Why does it matter when the case load goes down for the Division of Children and Family Services?
Because investigations are completed more quickly and cases get resolved more quickly.
That means children receive the protection they deserve, and families receive the type of support that keeps them together.
The Division’s goal is to complete investigations within 45 days. Five years ago 63 percent of reports were completed on time. Today, 76 percent are completed on time.
After case workers complete their investigations, they implement a plan to support the family and protect the children.
Five years ago, the typical protective services case took more than six months to complete, or 174 days. Now, it takes 159, or a little less than five months.
These improvements are important in the lives of children in abusive circumstances.
The Division’s stated goal is to reduce its average case load to less than 20. That will take a commitment of resources, in order to hire more staff.
Before they cut taxes for the state’s richest citizens, lawmakers ought to consider how much Arkansas families would benefit from an increase in resources.
The same applies to public schools. We’re facing an imminent shortage of qualified teachers. If we want the best teachers to stay in Arkansas, we need to make their salaries competitive with those in Texas and Tennessee.
Arkansas has the money to pay for more family services and higher teacher salaries. We can afford to eliminate the waiting list for home based services for people with developmental disabilities.
We can afford to significantly improve benefits for families with a child on the autism spectrum.
The governor is trying to drum up support for a special session.
There is no better time to let your legislators and elected officials know what you think. Arkansas should do its best to care for our most vulnerable citizens.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.