(INDIANAPOLIS) -Legislators and Indiana’s Department of Child Services are backing off some of a consultant’s recommendations to reduce caseloads.
An independent review of DCS after the angry resignation of director Mary Beth Bonaventura blamed swollen caseloads in part on Indiana laws that are broader than other states’, requiring investigations in many more cases. The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group recommended changing the definition of who qualifies as a caregiver, limiting it to parents, guardians, day-care providers, and people living with noncustodial parents.
DCS is discarding that recommendation, and a corresponding one that would limit sexual abuse allegations to caregivers.
The department is endorsing another recommendation, to make clear that poverty shouldn’t be the sole reason for a neglect investigation. Assistant director Todd J. Meyer says parents shouldn’t have to fear having their kids taken away just because they’re poor. He says the agency is looking at ways to help steer those people to financial assistance.
The Child Welfare Group also questioned a state law requiring DCS to respond within an hour if a child may be in imminent danger. The Alabama-based consultants say that’s the job of police, and recommended a 24-hour standard. DCS has scaled that back to a four-hour recommendation. But several members of a legislative study committee say that’s still too long, and want to keep the one-hour requirement.
The study panel has put off a vote on its own, nonbinding recommendations. It’ll be up to the full House and Senate to reach final decisions when the legislative session gets underway in January.
(Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)