As former sheriff, the worse cases I ever experienced were those that included children. I will never understand someone that would abuse or neglect a child. In 2004, there were 51 child fatalities resulting from abuse or neglect.
With the progress made by Indiana’s own Department of Child Services (DCS), the number of fatalities has decreased to 25 child fatalities in 2010. As a result, Senate Bill (SB) 286 was introduced to increase the effectiveness of DCS so that they may prolong their efforts in guaranteeing the downward trend in fatalities continues to ensure the safety of all Hoosier children.
Most legislation addresses one or two issues. This bill goes above and beyond to address everything that was needed. First, it would create a DCS interim study committee to study, review and evaluate their progress, best practices, child abuse hotline and other aspects of DCS operations.
Second, it would require an ombudsman to hire two full-time staff members to help address and resolve complaints. Additionally, it allows DCS to keep records of unsubstantiated abuse reports as an internal reference when later addressing the same child or family. Current laws allow for the expungement of these records.
Lastly, it would extend DCS’s authority to conduct criminal background checks on parents, guardians, household members and alleged perpetrators of child abuse. In addition, it requires a committee to ensure any placement is in the best interest of the child.
In 2005, only 10.4 percent of DCS children received a monthly visit from their caseworker. In 2011, that percentage increased to 95.7 percent—an increase that deserves praising.
There is no doubt that DCS continues to regularly make vast improvements and on their own accord.
However, this legislation has provided DCS with the necessary flexibility and tools for the sake of progress in keeping all our Hoosier children safe. More importantly, this legislation came at the request of DCS.
Our children are our future, plain and simple, and they deserve a safe and loving home. Whether or not a child grows up in a dual-parent home, single parent home or foster home, they deserve the opportunity to be in a safe and healthy environment. It is an awful situation for any child—let alone so many—to be in an environment that doesn’t reflect that.
With the passing of SB 286, we are working to have the number of child fatalities continue to decrease. It was amended during House discussion, so it now returns to the Senate for approval. If approved, it will be sent to the governor’s office for his signature to be signed into law.
If you know a child is being abused, please call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.