NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nearly a year since the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) swore in its newest commissioner, Margie Quin, the number of caseloads and staffing shortages are starting to trend in a more positive direction.

Since September 2022, DCS staff said they have decreased their overall number of caseloads per worker by half.

“We’ve seen a great improvement,” said Alex Denis, DCS executive director of communications and external affairs.

Taking a look at the numbers, there are 12 regions with Child Protective Services (CPS) statewide. Only two regions now have more than a 20-caseload average per case worker — Davidson and South Central. Davidson averages a caseload of around 45; that number is down from an average of 96 since last September, while South Central sits at 23.

Statewide, the average of roughly 24 cases per worker is down to roughly 18.

“We wanted to make sure that case managers felt like they were supported, that they have all the information and knowledge that they needed as they went out into the world to deal with these families because we heard from so many of them that the turnover rate was so high because they just weren’t prepared,” said Denis.

The department was considerably understaffed last year, but the gaps are steadily being filled due to several initiatives.

“When the commissioner was sworn in in September, there (were) a little bit more than 600 open positions in a department that has roughly 4,000 employees. So, we were considerably understaffed. Right now, we’ve got that number at about half,” said Denis.

Trainings have also been expanded for case workers from nine weeks to 24 and pay has increased.

“So, I think not only expanding training, but increasing base pay, so $50,600 to start for a case manager. Both those combine to really support them,” said Denis.

Case workers in areas with higher caseloads are also receiving external help.

“We’re surging the area with other areas that don’t have an overrun of cases. All of those people come here on a weekend voluntarily; they’re getting paid overtime, but they help to close out those cases,” Denis continued.

Staff said they’re on track to close the staffing gap by the end of this year with the rate of staff signing up for new training. As of Monday, there are just under 8,919 kids in DCS custody in the state, and there is a large need for foster families for children and teen siblings above the age of 10 years old.

“Everything we do should be centered around making sure that these kids have the best care that they deserve and need,” said Denis.

For more information on how you can help foster children in DCS custody, click here.