Latest update confirms crisis at DCS


South Bend Tribune

The consultant reviewing Indiana’s Department of Child Services isn’t set to deliver a final report for a few months yet.

But it’s already crystal clear that there are serious issues and systemic troubles that urgently demand fixing for the sake of the state’s youngest and most vulnerable residents.

In an update earlier this month, its second, the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group noted concerns that include a shortage of attorneys at DCS, inadequacy of education and training requirements for case managers and a lack of mental health and substance abuse services.

Last month, the consultant identified two challenges in Indiana’s child welfare agency: An inadequate computer system used to track child welfare cases and a rate of removing children from their homes and placing them in state care that’s more than twice the national average. The final report is due by June 21.

The preliminary findings were gleaned from more than 100 interviews with people who work in, or are involved with, the state’s child welfare system. As of yet, former DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventure has not been interviewed, though the director of the consultant firm says his group plans to ask her if she’d be willing.

We certainly hope that happens. After all, it was Bonaventura, a former juvenile court judge, who set off this review with the clarion call delivered in her resignation letter in December. In that scathing missive, she criticized Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration for service cuts and management changes that she said would “all but ensure children will die.”

Bonaventura’s sense of urgency has only been confirmed by updates from the consultant so far. Which is why it’s been disappointing to see the lack of action from lawmakers. The Republican leadership has said that this year’s short session doesn’t allow for time to address the issue and that the group conducting the assessment should be given time to complete its work. We believe they should have conducted public hearings, where they could gather information — either in conjunction with or separately from the governor’s study.

Instead, as we pointed out in an earlier comment, any legislative action on the issue likely wouldn’t come until the 2019 session — which basically ignores the plight of the children under DCS supervision. That’s unconscionable — and yet another failure to do right by these young Hoosiers.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].

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