STATEHOUSE (Jan. 22, 2019) – The House of Representatives today voted in support of State Rep. Greg Steuerwald’s (R-Avon) proposal to reform the Indiana Department of Child Services.
House Bill 1006 would implement legislative recommendations based off an independent and comprehensive evaluation of DCS by the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, and findings from the House Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary, chaired by Steuerwald.
“Implementing recommendations based off national standards, best practices and the state’s unique needs will help improve the outcomes of children in the welfare system,” Steuerwald said. “These changes, coupled with increased funding through the state budget, are part of a comprehensive effort to better serve the most vulnerable in our state and support Hoosier families in need.”
A six-month assessment of DCS found that Indiana has a very high rate of children in out-of-home care, with more than half of the removals related to parental substance abuse. To curb unnecessary removals, this legislation would more clearly define when a child is in need of services.
“When families are struggling with substance abuse, we first need to offer treatment options and resources outside of DCS and limit court involvement,” Steuerwald said.
With nearly 45 percent of family case managers having caseloads above the state standard, as determined by the assessment, caseload limits would be decreased.
To provide more help to young adult Hoosiers who received foster care, this legislation would also expand services to those aged 21.
In addition, House Bill 1006 would extend the time-frame for assessments to be completed by DCS caseworkers from 30 days to 45 to provide adequate time for employees to do their work. Due to the rural nature of most of Indiana’s counties, the proposal would also allot two hours for caseworkers to conduct an on-site assessment, as opposed to one hour.
“Implementing these policies on behalf of Hoosier children, families and DCS employees will make a real difference in our state,” Steuerwald. “While Indiana’s child welfare system has strengths, there are challenges that we have to address so that those in need have better outcomes.”
After being approved by the House of Representatives, Steuerwald’ s HB 1006 can now be considered by the Senate.