The 2013 legislative session has come to a close. Over the past four months, we have reviewed hundreds of pieces of legislation with the benefit of Hoosiers in mind. As a member of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee it was important to see the several pieces of legislation that the General Assembly passed aimed at improving the lives of our youngest, most vulnerable Hoosiers. Some of these bills include Senate Enrolled Acts (SEA) 125 and 164.
I had the opportunity to sponsor SEA 125 in the House. This bill is a compilation of some of the Interim Department of Child Services (DCS) Study Committee recommendations. A recent study showed that DCS reviewed more than 292 child deaths from state-fiscal year 2011. That is 292 too many. SEA 125 establishes the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to study issues concerning vulnerable youth, review legislation, cooperate with other entities and take other actions relating to children. SEA 125 will help Indiana analyze and address concerns and issues related to children. The commission will involve all three branches of government and provide a powerful mechanism to study and change policy where needed.
I also sponsored SEA 164 which allows a prosecuting attorney to request a juvenile court to authorize the filing of a petition alleging that a child is a child in need of services (CHINS). CHINS categories describe the type of abuse or neglect requiring the child to need services. Each CHINS number refers to the section of the Indiana Code describing the reason a child needs services. CHINS petitions are filed with the court, and then a judge decides if the child needs services. Since 2009, DCS has had the sole authority to file CHINS petitions, but SEA 164 also allows a prosecuting attorney to do so. The bill also authorizes a prosecuting attorney to represent the interests of the state in the proceedings regarding the child in need of services.
In addition to passing legislation, the Legislature has allotted additional funding for DCS. The biennial state budget provides $35 million in additional DCS funding for each of the next two years. These funds will allow the agency to accomplish most of the goals set forth by the DCS Summer Study Committee including providing $11.5 million for CHINS 6 behavioral health.
The additional funding will allow DCS to hire 136 new Family Case Managers (FCMs) and 75 FCM supervisors. DCS also plans to add 23 intake specialists and six intake specialist supervisors at the DCS child abuse and neglect hotline. These additions will help reduce the employee turnover at the centralized call center and lessen the hold time for callers. DCS also plans to open two regional call centers in an effort to return more control to the locals.
I am pleased by the steps the General Assembly has taken to protect our youngest Hoosiers in addition to other initiatives in job creation and workforce development. What are your thoughts on the accomplishments of the 2013 session? Hearing your feedback on the legislative process is critical to my role as your State Representative. I can be reached by phone at 317-232-9509 or by email at email@example.com.