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DCS centralized hotline undergoes changes in advance of legislation

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Prior to the Indiana General Assembly implementing recommendations from an interim study committee, the Indiana Department of Child Services is making changes.

Travis Holdman, R-Markle, co-chair of the Department of Child Services Interim Study Committee, said the state agency has been altering some of its processes to mirror the committee’s proposals. Among those changes are adjustments to how the centralized hotline handles calls.   

Speaking March 13 after a hearing by the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs, the senator also praised DCS director John Ryan’s cooperation.  

“Many of the things we thought we were going to have to pass as original recommendations of the committee and do legislation, DCS has said, ‘Don’t mess with that. We’ll just fix it for you,’ and they have already proceeded to do that,” Holdman said.

The centralized hotline was implemented in January 2010 and since has raised concerns over how the intake specialists handle the calls. Some elected officials advocated that the central line be dismantled and the state revert to the local DCS offices handling the reports.

Holdman and former committee co-chair and state representative Cindy Noe proposed the hotline be altered to a hybrid model. They wanted to give community professionals like police officers, judges, physicians and school officials direct access to the local office.

Their recommendation became the basis for Senate Bill 105, authored by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. It passed through the Senate by a unanimous vote and has been referred to the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs.

According to DCS spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland, the department introduced new processes with the hotline on March 5 which gives all decision making to the local offices. Calls are still routed through the centralized hotline, but after the intake specialists gather as much information as possible, the report, with a recommendation, is turned over to the local authorities to determine how to handle the situation.

Previously, the intake specialists were determining whether the information met legal sufficiency for DCS to make an assessment. Reports for assessment as well as the reports for non-assessment were sent to the local offices. Family case managers in the community offices could decide to still follow up on the calls that were not recommended for assessment.

Along with the change to the central call center, Holdman said DCS followed a committee recommendation and gave pay raises to the hotline employees. The department is also adding more family case managers.     

The overall goal with the call center, he said, is to reduce the 50 percent turnover rate among employees and cut the hold time to zero.

 

 

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