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February 24, 2012

02/27/12 Even though there are only two weeks left in the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly…

And even though the majority leaders of both the Indiana House and Senate show no interest in passing anything of substance this session to help Hoosier families…

I still believe there is time to address serious concerns and help the people of this state now.

Particularly those people who are most at risk. Our kids.

Since 2007, dozens of children across Indiana have died from abuse and neglect. The thread that links these cases? Nothing was done when concerns about their care were reported to the state Department of Child Services (DCS). They were left with their families.

The DCS was yet another of the state agencies targeted for massive change by our governor upon taking office. Yet the statistics indicate that there has been no substantial improvement.

Consider that reports of suspicions of abuse and neglect now are all filtered through a centralized service in Indianapolis, rather than local offices. When you call this service, you are asked a series of standard questions. The answers help determine whether or not the report is forwarded to local caseworkers for further investigation.

On average, it takes about 11 minutes to conduct this interview. Nearly 40 percent of the calls that are made are determined to be unworthy of further investigation.

Is the point of this system to actually solve problems and address potentially life-threatening situations? Or is it simply to declare cases resolved as quickly as possible?

In the time we have left this session, I intend to see what can be done to look at this system and see if it is truly serving its purpose of protecting children. While an independent audit of the entire agency would be the best possible response, there is a definite need to focus on two areas:

First, let’s see how this Indianapolis call center is working, particularly in assessing the levels of risk in each report and turning these matters over to caseworkers for investigation.

Next, let us determine how well the system is handling these reports. Do the workers have too many cases to handle? Are their workloads too heavy for them to have the time they need to fully explore each incident? Or, are their arms being twisted by their superiors in Indianapolis to bring cases to a resolution as quickly as possible, so the bottom line looks good?

This is not a new issue. It’s something House Democrats identified as a priority for the 2012 session through their Helping Hoosiers Now program. So far, House leadership has shown little interest in this proposal.

Let me make one more point. In 2011, the DCS reverted more than $100 million back to the state treasury to give the governor a hefty surplus to brag about.

Now that we know the surplus is at least $300 million larger than originally thought – thanks to some funds the administration “found” not long ago – can it seriously be argued that it’s better for the people of Indiana to have that $100 million laying around in a bank account?

Or could it help create a better system that reduces the risks that our children will be abused and neglected?

To me, that’s not a choice.

Let me know what you think. Here’s how you can stay in touch:

Call my office toll-free at 1-800-382-9842;

Write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204; or

E-mail me at