COLUMBIA (AP) ó A deputy director at the Department of Social Services said the agency needs 200 more employees to reach goals for worker caseloads.


Jessica Hanak-Coulter said Wednesday that 202 employees would be needed to keep caseloads at or below proposed limits for the number of cases and children each worker should handle at one time.


Hanak-Coulter testified before a Senate panel reviewing operations of the agency.


The 25 percent boost in employees would cost $10 million.


Senators on the panel pointed out that DSS has made only one request for new caseworkers in the past four years.


The Senate panel began the review after child welfare advocates said DSS was missing abuse cases that led to children dying. The agency got approval earlier this year to hire 50 more caseworkers.


The proposed 109 caseworkers, 79 supervisors and second-shift relief for the day-time caseworkers would help Social Services lower caseloads, Hanak-Coulter said.


DSS wants each child abuse investigator to handle cases involving no more than 24 children. Foster care workers would handle no more than 14 to 20 children ideally.


The new positions would reverse a four-year decline in the number of child-protective services and foster care positions at the agency. Those positions have dropped by 255, or 18 percent, since 2009.