INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana’s Department of Child Services is under fire and under the microscope.
On Thursday, Child Services released its second progress report on the department.
One hundred forty-one: That’s how many people The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group said it’s spoken to since Jan. 3. It’s the outside agency the state hired months ago to closely examine the Department of Child Services.
Sue Steib with The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group said, “They generally view them as hardworking and well-intentioned.”
But, there are some things to work on.
People who The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group interviewed asked if there were enough experienced attorneys working at Child Services. The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group said people who were interviewed believed some practices slow down court filing times, which in turn they believed negatively impacted some children.
Paul Vincent with The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group said, “It looks like one factor is turnover. You’ve got vacancies. Attorneys are covering more jurisdictions. You could have continuances because you can’t be in two courts at one time.”
People who The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group talked to also mentioned they can’t reach local office staff despite calls and emails. Along the same lines, The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group said it heard reports of an extreme shortage of therapeutic service providers for mental health and substance abuse, particularly for rural families of in-home interventions.
Vincent said, “You find in some cases wait lists or you find interns doing a lot of the treatment of kids and families when preferably it would be from credential psychologists or other professionals. We don’t know how widespread that is here.”
People who The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group talked to also were concerned because they believe there is so much paperwork involved in an approval process that a response to the needs of children and families could slow down or be blocked completely.
The new director of Child Services, Terry Stigdon, said this evaluation is useful. “I do believe this will help us learn and grow.”
State Sen. Ed Melton, a Democrat from Merrillville, said he hopes so. He is spearheading a resolution calling for a Child Services-focused committee.
Melton said the data provided from The Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group is “a step in the right direction.
“I’m impressed that they are able to get a lot of valuable information out.”