Mary Price, on her own behalf and on behalf of a class of those similarly situated, Appellants-Plaintiffs,
Indiana Department of Child Services; Director, Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellees-Defendants.
from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Heather Welch,
Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D01-1507-PL-23062
Attorneys for Appellant Kenneth J. Falk Gavin M. Rose ACLU of
Indiana Indianapolis, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of
Indiana Frances Barrow Andrea E. Rahman Deputy Attorneys
General Indianapolis, Indiana
OF THE CASE
Appellant-Plaintiff, Mary Price (Price), on her own behalf
and on behalf of a class of those similarly situated, appeals
the trial court's grant of Appellees-Defendants',
Indiana Department of Child Services; Director, Indiana
Department of Child Services (collectively, DCS), motion for
dismissal of Price's Complaint for failing to state a
claim for relief pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule
We affirm, in part, reverse, in part, and remand.
Price raises two issues on appeal, which we restate as:
(1)Whether Price has a private right of action to enforce the
maximum caseload standard included in Indiana Code section
(2)Whether Price's Complaint states a claim for relief as
an action for mandate.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Under Indiana law, the DCS is charged with the responsibility
of providing various services to protect children and to
strengthen families. The family case managers (FCMs),
employed by the DCS, are "the backbone of Indiana's
child welfare system" and the key components in
safeguarding the safety of Indiana's children.
(Appellant's App. p. 4). They are responsible for, among
other things, investigating reports of abuse or neglect of
children in Indiana, ongoing case management services if the
reports indicate that abuse or neglect actually occurred,
providing family support services to strengthen families to
help assure that abuse or neglect will not recur, and
offering adoption or other permanency services if children
cannot safely be returned to their homes. Some FCMs may only
provide initial assessments, while others are permanency
workers who monitor and supervise active cases after abuse or
neglect is substantiated. In smaller counties, one FCM may
often perform both functions.
Indiana Code section 31-25-2-5 provides, in part, referring
to DCS as "the department, " that:
(a) The department shall ensure that the department maintains
staffing levels of family case managers so that each region
has enough family case managers to allow caseloads to be at
not more than:
(1) Twelve (12) active cases relating to initial assessments,
including investigations of an allegation of child abuse or
(2) Seventeen (17) children monitored and supervised in
active cases relating to ongoing services.
(b) The department shall comply with the maximum caseload
ratios described in subsection (a).
statutory requirement is further emphasized by Indiana Code
section 31-25-2-10, which clarifies:
(a) This section applies after June 30, 2008.
(b) The department of child services:
(1) must have sufficient qualified and trained staff to:
(A) fulfill the purpose of this article;
(B) comply with the maximum caseload ratios for:
(i) Family case managers; and
(ii) Child welfare caseworkers; as set forth in [I.C. §
Price is currently employed by DCS in Marion County as a
permanency worker. Therefore, pursuant to the statute, her
caseload should be limited to no more than 17 children.
However, in the past four years, Price's caseload has
"always greatly exceed[ed] this number" and at the
time of filing the Complaint amounted to "approximately
43 children." (Appellant's App. p. 25). In its 2014
Annual Report to the State Budget Committee and Legislative
Council, the DCS reported that it would need to employ an
additional 216.2 FCMs to comply with the caseload standards
mandated by Indiana law. Although additional money was
appropriated to hire more FCMs during the 2015 legislative
session, insufficient money was made available to allow the
mandated statutory caseload standards to be achieved.
Because of the increasing caseload, Price and other FCMs work
much longer than a 40-hour week in an effort to keep up with
their cases. Due to the excessive caseload, turnover among
the FCMs has become a serious problem as they
"frequently leave to find employment that is less
stressful and demanding." (Appellant's App. p. 26).
On July 14, 2015, Price filed her Verified Class Action
Complaint for Mandate and Injunctive and Declaratory Relief,
contending that DCS violated Indiana Code section 31-25-2-5
by failing to ensure that the department meets the FCM
standards mandated by statute. Price requested the court to
enter an order mandating or enjoining DCS to take all steps
necessary to comply with Indiana Code section 31-25-2-5. On
July 16, 2015, ...