DCS official to Child Welfare Scholar grads: There is no job more valuable

Graduates of the BSW and MSW Child Welfare Scholars program represent the next generation of leaders at the Indiana Department of Child Services, Indiana University School of Social Work Dean Michael Patchner told the students at a ceremony honoring their accomplishments.

Dean Patchner Talking to a group of students“We know that the future of the Department of Child Services rests on each and every one of you,” Patchner said at a ceremony at the School of Social Work building on the IUPUI campus. “You are the folks that will provide leadership and you are the folks who are going to make a difference.”

DCS today is a much different place than when the School first began developing a partnership with DCS 10 years ago, Patchner told the students. Initially, the partnership was small program involving MSW students and then BSW students were added. Now the School oversees the Child Welfare Education and Training Partnership for all the social work programs in the state.

“We’ve seen so much change come about in the last 10 years with DCS and child welfare services throughout the state,” Patchner said. “I think a major component of that was infusing social workers into the system.  I don’t want to negate the good leadership with Judge Payne (James Payne, Director of DCS) and all his staff because those folks embraced social work and they saw the difference social workers could make in the system.

Patchner recounted how he served as chairman of the Indiana Commission on Child Abuse and Neglect in 2004 and how he and the School’s faculty provided the leadership for the commission. One of the commission’s recommendations was to increase the number of family case managers, which Gov. Mitch Daniels, who was then running as a candidate for governor, embraced. Gov. Daniels doubled the number of case managers despite the budget woes the state was experiencing at the time. That was a key decision because it reduced the family case managers case loads, giving them time to do their work and thus keep children safe in their homes, the dean explained.

In recent years, DCS and the Child Welfare Education and Training Partnership developed a new training model for existing staff as well as new students going to work at the agency. Patricia Howes, MSW, at the School of Social Work is director of the partnership.

Dave Judkins, Deputy Director of Field Operations for DCS, told the students a story to emphasize how much has changed at DCS. He recalled an incident from years ago when a woman he had hired left DCS and moved to Ohio. Several months later she called and told him she was working at a department store selling drapes. The store provided six weeks of training before she was allowed to sell drapes, the woman told Judkins. She reminded him that had had given her 50 cases on her first day. “Now we have a lot of folks that come in that already have the training through the BSW classes,” Judkins said. If not, DCS has a 12-week training program, he noted.

While the MSW students are already working at DCS, the undergraduate students who will now begin working for DCS will find they have “the best job in the world,” Judkins said. “I think we are the best agency in state government and the most important,” said Judkins, who has been with DCS for 35 years. 

The work the students will do is important, Judkins said. The state receives about 175,000 reports of child abuse a year and has about 15,000 children in the system at any given time, he noted. “We are doing better because we have good staff. This partnership with IU is priceless.”

Judkins said he has presented talks to different groups over the years and when people came up to him and told him they couldn’t do what he does, Judkins used so say that wasn’t so. Now, he has come to realize the job is not for everyone. “But if you are that person and you see the importance of this job, there is no other job that is more valuable.”

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Rob Schneider
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