Indiana Child Services battles staff turnover, shortages, outside agency finds

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INDIANAPOLIS (WANE)- A department under fire.. and under the microscope.

We are learning new details.. and getting a closer look inside Indiana’s Department of Child Services.

Thursday morning.. DCS released its second progress report on the department.

One hundred forty-one. That’s how many people the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group said they have spoken to, since January 3rd. They are the outside agency the state hired months ago to closely examine the Department of Child Services.

Sue Steib, with the The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group said Thursday morning, “They generally view them as hard-working and well-intentioned.”

But, there are some things to work on. People CWG interveiwed asked if there are enough experienced attorneys working at DCS. CWG said interviewees feel like some practices, slow down court filing times, which in turn they feel negatively impacts some children.

Paul Vincent with The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group explained Thursday morning, “It looks like one factor is turnover. You’ve got vacancies. Attorneys are covering more jurisdictions. You could have continuances because you can’t be in two courts at one time.”

People CWG talked to also mentioned they can’t reach local office staff, despite calls and emails. Along the same lines, CWG said it heard reports of an extreme shortage of theraputic service providers for mental health and substance abuse. Particularly for rural families of in-home interventions.

Vincent explained, “You find in some cases wait lists or you find interns doing a lot of the treatment of kids and families when preferably it would be from credential psychologists or other professional. We don’t know how widespread that is here.”

People CWG talked to were also concerned because they feel there’s so much paperwork involved in an approval process, that a response to a child or families needs could slow down, or be blocked completely. DCS’s new Director, Terry Stigdon, said this evaluation is useful.

Stigdon said Thursday morning, “I do believe this will help us learn and grow.”

State Senator Ed Melton, a Democrat from Merrillville, hopes so. He’s spearheding a DCS resolution calling for a department-focused committee.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction. I’m impressed that they are able to get a lot of valuable information out,” Melton explained.

To read the complete report in full detail, click here.

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