Indiana lawmakers consider 2-year study of Child Services

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Parts of the system need to be repaired — that’s what several foster families said about the Indiana Department of Child Services on Monday.

As an outside firm continues analyzing the department, Hoosier lawmakers are trying to reinforce the troubled department.

An independent consulting firm will release another report in about two weeks, as they audit DCS. The audit follows the December resignation of former director, Mary Beth Bonaventura, the appointment of current director Terry Stigdon and a nonprofit group’s report on the system in January.

State Sen. Eddie Melton, a Democrat from Merrillville, said he’s hoping lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can work together on issues within DCS.

Jacklin Caudill’s eyes light up when you ask her what it’s like to be the foster mother of a 6-week-old baby girl.

“It is exhausting! I am tired, but it has brought me a lot of joy to see her grow already,” Caudill explained.

But she says her experience with the Department of Child Services doesn’t necessarily bring her so much joy

“I would describe right now as rough. There definitely need to be some changes. I feel like the children need to come first and not always the biological parent,” Caudill said.

“I think the communication lacks. I feel like there is a lot more cases than they can handle right now,” Caudill explained. “There’s a shortage in case workers, and a huge turnover rate.”

Concerns like those are part of why Melton introduced a resolution Monday urging lawmakers to create a two-year bipartisan summer study committee focused entirely on DCS.

“That would address some of the issues and allegations that come around the Department of Child Services,” Melton said.

The committee would go over the allegations levied against DCS by its former director, Bonaventura, in a scathing resignation letter.

Melton said the committee might want to hear from Bonaventura: “I think that could be an option. If she’s willing to come forth, I think she could bring a lot of valuable information.”

“We are going to have a fine-tooth combing of DCS. It’s going to be a nonpartisan analysis. I look forward to working with the senator on that,”  Gov. Eric Holcomb said.

Some foster parents who spoke to WISH-TV seemed to like the idea of the actions proposed.

Pam Owens, a foster parent, said she has welcomed about 170 foster children into her home through the years

“I think revamping the system is a good idea,” Owens said. “What I have a reservation about is, ‘Does that take away from the children we’re trying to serve?'”

Melton said he’s optimistic he’ll get this resolution passed and through Senate chambers and that a vote on the resolution could happen within the next two weeks.