Lawmakers Question Whether Lack Of Social Workers Contributed To Teen's Death

Mar 13, 2017

A group of mostly Democratic state lawmakers met with the head of Iowa’s Division of Adult, Child and Family Services Monday, and asked if a lack of social workers contributed to the starvation death of a West Des Moines teen in October. 

"The social workers are telling us that we should be protecting kids, we’re not because we’re over worked. 'Our staff load is too high. We’ve doubled our overtime in the last year,'" says State Senator Matt McCoy of Polk County. "Are we leaving vulnerable children out to fend for themselves when we don’t have adequate staffing?"

"I would never sit here and tell you that having more workers in the field would not be a good thing," says Wendy Rickman, the division administrator for Adult, Child and Family Services. "[But] our system is functional. It is beyond functional...We have outcomes that I would put up against any state."

McCoy and other lawmakers asked DHS for data on staffing numbers, overtime hours and caseloads. The department didn’t have that information, but promised to report back. 

Rickman says her division receives about 50,000 calls a year of alleged reports of child neglect and abuse, and that 52 percent of those reports are assessed.