Consultant Gives First Report On Indiana Dept. Of Child Services Problems
By Mike Perleberg
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – The first update of a review of Indiana’s Department of Child Services ordered by Governor Eric Holcomb has been released.
Holcomb initiated the review by Alabama-based Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group after former DCS director Mary Beth Bonaventura resigned last year. In her critical December 12 resignation letter, Bonaventure wrote that “lives will be lost and families ruined” by service cuts mandated by Holcomb’s administration.
An initial progress report of the review out Thursday says the number of Hoosier children in foster care has more than doubled in just the past five years to 16,834 at the end of 2017. The figure is even greater than neighboring states with much larger populations than Indiana.
CWG consultant Sue Steib said Indiana’s ratio of children in out-of-home care is 13 per every 1,000 kids. The national average is just 5.5 of every 1,000.
According to the initial CWG report, the organization highlighted the department needs an automated data system that is faster and more user friendly.
Republican lawmakers say the numbers raise systemic concerns that go beyond funding issues.
Democrats at the Statehouse have been calling for immediate action, but on Thursday House Minority Leader Terry Goodin (D-Austin) said it appears the work will take beyond the March 15 legislative session deadline to complete.
“The problems facing DCS are so extreme that I would not be surprised if we end up with a complete overhaul of the agency itself. As I have said before, what concerns me is whether the solutions will require legislative remedies,” Goodin said in a statement.
“That is a debate for down the road. Right now, I would encourage this group to spend as much time as possible talking to the people who face these problems on the front lines of DCS. It is good to talk to administrators and middle management, but it’s the folks like the case managers who have to implement this agency’s mission statement on a daily basis, and it is absolutely imperative that they talk to the families whose lives are most affected. It is their input and experience that will be valuable in improving this system.”
CWG is expected to provide another update on its assessment of DCS in March. A final report will be issued in the summer.