HELENA — The state health department has agreed to leave one child protection caseworker in Livingston after initially proposing to close the office entirely to bolster staffing in the Billings office.
The Division of Child and Family Services says it will still add five positions at the Billings office, where officials say they face crisis-level caseloads. Another Livingston position will be re-assigned to Bozeman. The caseworker who remains in Livingston will be supervised by the Bozeman office.
The decision will allow for face-to-face coverage in Livingston to continue, Marti Vining, division administrator, said in a letter to concerned citizens.
The state accepted office space offered by the city of Livingston to keep a caseworker there. Current employees in the Livingston office have until Aug. 3 to determine if they want to apply for the Livingston position or other openings statewide.
Caseworkers, child advocates, lawmakers and law enforcement raised concerns about the proposed closure, saying it would leave families without services and increase responsibilities for law enforcement officers.
The number of children in care of the state agency has increased in recent years, with nearly 4,000 children in foster care. The agency says much of the increase is caused by parental drug use.
Yellowstone County has 950 kids in foster care and adding five caseworkers will help, Keely McCave, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Yellowstone County, has said.
Livingston’s caseload is already being transitioned to the Bozeman office, Vining said.
“We will be closely monitoring each of these cases in the coming months to ensure a successful transition,” she said.
Livingston’s office will be down to one employee by Aug. 31.
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