Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services workers now based in Lawrence are waiting for the dust to settle.
Under a reorganization announced late last month by Dennis Taylor, acting SRS secretary, the Lawrence SRS office, now serving just Douglas County under the Topeka-area office, soon will become an area office serving seven northeast Kansas counties.
In addition, the personnel structure of SRS is in the midst of changes initiated by Taylor, and social workers and SRS administrators are awaiting decisions on how these changes will affect their responsibilities and their placement.
The planned changes generate some concern to a staff already covering caseloads that many legislators, people involved with foster care and child protectice services and SRS officials agree are too high.
"Well, yes, with both reorganization and waiting for a new area director, there is concern," said Jim Baze, section chief of the Lawrence office. "And of course, the longer we wait, the more anxiety there is."
THE WAIT for a new area director will last about another week, said Barbara Conant, acting public information director at SRS. She said Wednesday that interviews for the position are still being conducted, and an announcement probably will be made next week.
Meanwhile, SRS is conducting a search in Lawrence for a bigger office.
Conant said the agency is looking for a building containing 20,000 to 25,000 square feet to house the increased staff that will work here. The current SRS office in Lawrence, located at 619 E. Eighth, has about 11,000 square feet, and Baze said the office already is somewhat overcrowded.
Conant said about 100 SRS workers will be stationed in Lawrence, compared to about 40 now working in the office serving only Douglas County.
UNDER THE reorganization, the Lawrence office will cover areas previously under SRS's Hiawatha and Osawatomie area offices, which will be eliminated. The counties to be served from Lawrence are Franklin, Brown, Doniphan, Atchison, Jefferson, Jackson and Douglas.
Baze said that when the new area director is named, he expects a transition team to be appointed.
"A lot of decisions have to be made," he said. "There's the possibility of some (personnel) shifting within the new area. And obviously, we're waiting to see what kind of staff we have."
Baze said an SRS freeze on hiring has the Lawrence office down one foster care caseworker, which already has caused some shifting of responsibilities. The person who normally supervises foster care caseworkers now has taken on caseloads, and Baze himself now supervises that division along with his other responsibilities.
EACH OF the four foster care caseworkers, including the supervisor, now carries caseloads of between 50 and 60 foster children, he said.
"We're all out of position now, and are waiting for the new administrator to come in and make decisions," Baze said.
In the changes announced by Taylor, about 15 current SRS administrators will be reassigned to direct client service.
Taylor said the reorganization was aimed at reducing administrative costs and increasing SRS services in the areas of child protective services and foster care.
Taylor said the changes will not result in the loss of any jobs, and would be completed within 45 days.