DCS

Child Welfare Agency Proposes Changes To State Law

Sep 19, 2018
The Department of Child Services wants legislators to change some of the laws that govern the child welfare agency. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)
Brandon Smith

The Department of Child Services wants legislators to change some of the laws that govern the child welfare agency.

Lawmakers debated those proposed changes in a study committee Wednesday.

Governor Holcomb Calls For Special Session

Mar 19, 2018
Gov. Eric Holcomb says he wants lawmakers to act on a few of the issues that died last week when legislators ran out of time. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)
Brandon Smith

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Monday he’ll call for a special session of the General Assembly to address some of the issues that died last week when lawmakers ran out of time at session’s end.

It will be the first non-budget special session in 16 years.

An independent consultant’s evaluation of the Department of Child Services has taken small steps in its first month on the ground. The consultant delivered its first progress report on the assessment Thursday – an update that’s yielded more questions than answers.

The evaluation of DCS began Jan. 2 and consultant Sue Steib says it’s expected to end in June. Steib says her group has already identified an agency issue: an ineffective data system.

Baby Box Legalization Effort Halted In Committee

Feb 13, 2017

 

An effort to legalize baby boxes in Indiana was halted in a Senate committee hearing about the boxes, which are meant to provide mothers an extra layer of anonymity when dropping off unwanted newborns.

Indiana Department of Child Services / http://www.in.gov/dcs/files/DCSLog150.jpg

Indiana’s Department of Child Services says it’s doing all it can to comply with caseload requirements in state law and that a court can’t order it to do more.

Lawyers for the agency made that case Wednesday before the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Indiana law says the Department of Child Services must provide enough caseworkers so that the average caseload doesn’t exceed 17 children.

All but one of the 19 regions in the state exceeds that standard. Caseworker Mary Price oversees 43 children.

Almond Dhukka / https://www.flickr.com/photos/almondbutterscotch/

Indiana’s battle against drug abuse has is leading the Department of Child Services to remove children from their homes at an increasing rate.

DCS officials reported a 61-percent increase in children being removed from their homes between 2012 and 2016.

Spokesman James Wide says the jump is an unintended consequence of Indiana’s growing opioid painkiller addiction.

Child Services Caseload Lawsuit May Be Thrown Out

Oct 26, 2015
Indiana Department of Child Services / http://www.in.gov/dcs/files/DCSLog150.jpg

A judge will decide next year whether a lawsuit over heavy Department of Child Services caseloads should be thrown out.

State law caps the number of cases per worker at 17. DCS acknowledges caseworkers are above that ratio in most of the agency's 19 regions. But the state argues there's 15 years of precedent saying a state law must specifically grant a right to sue, or at least imply one.

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

The Department of Child Services’ caseload is up a quarter over last year.  So the state is responding by hiring more than a hundred new caseworkers.

State law sets a standard for the average number of cases each DCS employee should be handling at one time.  The vast majority of the department’s regions have been out of compliance for years. 

The state responded earlier this year by hiring 100 new caseworkers and 17 supervisors -- but DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura says since then, there’s been a spike in demand.

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) says the test of Governor Pence‘s call to beef up the Department of Child Services won‘t be what ends up in the budget, but whether all the money is actually spent.

Pence quickly embraced an independent review‘s recommendation this week to hire nearly 120 new DCS case managers and supervisors, and asked budgeters to include an additional $7.5 million in funding.

Barbara Harrington / http://www.ipbs.org/

Gov. Mike Pence announced Wednesday he’s asking the General Assembly to give more money to the Department of Child Services for additional case workers.

The request comes from recommendations made by an independent study of the agency.

DCS aims for each of its case managers to handle, on average, 12 active cases and 17 cases that still need some supervision.  But the agency told lawmakers back in November only one of 19 regions across the state meets the so-called “12/17” standard.