DCS

DCS Director Terry Stigdon addresses a crowd of child advocates at the Statehouse celebration of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)
Brandon Smith

Indiana leaders celebrated National Child Abuse Prevention Month Thursday amid controversy at the state’s child welfare agency.

Independent consultants investigating the Department of Child Services have identified significant potential shortages in the agency.

The consultants’ second public update shows possible challenges in legal representation, worker qualifications, and services.

A Senate committee unanimously recommended creation of a special legislative study commission to investigate the Department of Child Services Monday.

Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Merrillville) authored the resolution. He says his proposed two-year commission is not meant to interfere with an ongoing, independent review of the embattled state agency.

Bill Aims To Improve DCS Communication With Schools

Feb 22, 2018

A bill passed through committee this week that aims to improve communications between schools, courts and the Department of Child Services.

The first part of the bill would require DCS to outline efforts to coordinate with a foster child’s school system. Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington) authored the bill and says a case from his county highlights the problem.

“This child was 7-years-old and weighed 20 pounds and the only communication they had with the school was, here is the child,” says Zay.

Legislation unanimously approved in a Senate committee Tuesday aims to strengthen Indiana’s human trafficking laws.

The bill makes several changes to current statute. It separates out labor trafficking and sex trafficking and better defines them both.

Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Merrillville) wants to create a special legislative commission to investigate the Department of Child Services.

Melton says his proposal is meant to work in conjunction with ongoing independent efforts to explore issues at the embattled state agency.

An independent consultant’s evaluation of the Department of Child Services has taken small steps in its first month on the ground. The consultant delivered its first progress report on the assessment Thursday – an update that’s yielded more questions than answers.

The evaluation of DCS began Jan. 2 and consultant Sue Steib says it’s expected to end in June. Steib says her group has already identified an agency issue: an ineffective data system.

A House committee has approved legislation to track foster children and their success in schools.

The bill would require the Indiana Department of Education and the Department of Child Services to gather data on foster care students in public schools – specifically, the graduation rates and enrollment data for those students.

Deb Brewer is the regional director of a foster care and family services group called The Villages of Indiana, and she says that data could mean more support for foster children.

A bill that would raise the limit on children in a foster family from five to six is headed to the Senate floor. It passed the Senate Family and Children Services committee unanimously last week.

Cathy Graham, executive director of the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy, testified in favor of the bill. She says increasing the limit could help the Department of Child Services in emergency placements.

Gov. Eric Holcomb sought in his State of the State to reassure Hoosiers his administration will do “whatever it takes” to fix problems at the Department of Child Services.

But Democratic legislative leaders say Holcomb’s address lacked boldness and leadership, particularly when it comes to the ongoing DCS crisis.

Republican legislative leaders indicated Wednesday they will likely not take any significant action in the 2018 session to address issues at the Department of Child Services.

Democrats want the General Assembly to exert its oversight authority on the embattled child welfare agency.

Governor Holcomb Names New DCS Director

Dec 28, 2017

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a new director for the Department of Child Services. He also called for a department assessment after the last director’s departure.

It was earlier this month when Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura sent a long resignation letter to the governor. In it she expressed her concern for the wellbeing of Hoosier children due to changes in the department, funding cuts and an increased number of children in the system.

DCS Chief, Holcomb Disagree On Agency Funding Levels

Dec 18, 2017

 

Indiana Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura says the well-being of Hoosier children has been put at risk because of steps taken by Governor Eric Holcomb’s administration.

Bonaventura’s sharp criticisms came in her resignation letter, delivered to Holcomb last week.

DCS Director Bonaventura To Depart Agency

Dec 17, 2017

 

Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura will resign her position before the end of the month.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Bonaventura’s pending departure as he praised the outgoing agency head. In a statement, Holcomb hailed what he calls her “unwavering commitment” to Hoosier children’s safety.

The announcement did not include a reason for her decision.

State Supreme Court Considers DCS Caseload Lawsuit

Jun 1, 2017

The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday over whether a Department of Child Services caseworker’s lawsuit against the agency will move forward.

Only one of Indiana’s 19 DCS regions meets mandatory caseload limits at this time.

State law says DCS must provide enough caseworkers so that the average caseload in each region doesn’t exceed 12 active cases or 17 children supervised.