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Meth use linked to increase in CHINS

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Leslie Dunn, Indiana state director for GAL/CASA, said the number of Child in Need of Services cases over time remains stable, but she’s seen some remarkable variations in cases per-county from year to year. In Vanderburgh County, for example, new CHINS cases jumped from 448 in 2008 to 818 in 2010. People who are watching these numbers with concern cite several possible reasons for these variations.

Scott Wylie, plan administrator for the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana, said that he noticed during that same time period, the number of methamphetamine labs found in Vanderburgh County increased significantly. Indiana State Police show that in 2008, law enforcement seized 47 clandestine meth labs in the county. Last year, that number climbed to 95. While one might draw the conclusion that an increase in meth labs is directly tied to an increase in reported CHINS cases, data alone cannot reveal the complex reasons numbers are increasing in some counties, while dropping in others.

Wylie recalled that in 2008, 3-year-old Kalab Lay died after being returned to his parents’ Evansville home.

“There was a large amount of criticism in the Southwestern part of the state that the system had failed the young person by returning him to drug-addicted parents who ended up killing him and significantly injuring his sister,” he said.

Wylie said that perhaps the increasing number of CHINS cases in the Evansville area was a reaction to that incident, with nervous caseworkers reacting more strongly to allegations of abuse. In Marion County, that’s exactly what happened following the death of 3-year-old TaJanay Bailey in 2007.

After TaJanay

In November 2007, 3-year-old TaJanay Bailey died. She was just a few months old when the Indiana Department of Child Services first removed her from her mother’s care, and during her short life, she shifted back and forth between foster care and her mother’s home, where she sustained the injuries that caused her death.

Public outcry over TaJanay’s death made DCS caseworkers skittish about leaving neglected children in their homes.

“They began to remove kids right and left because they didn’t want to be on the front page of the paper,” said Dave Judkins, deputy director of field operations for the DCS. “We watched as that kind of played out in the press, the impact it had on our workers when they went out and dealt with these families.”

But, Judkins said, removing children from their homes can be terribly traumatic.

“The easiest thing to do to stay out of the paper would be to just remove kids, but you can’t do that; it’s just not right,” he said.

In the past few years, Judkins said, the DCS has begun to shift its approach to keeping children in homes whenever possible. About 80 percent of CHINS cases result from neglect, he said, with physical or sexual abuse accounting for a minority of the cases.

“I would tell you that I don’t think kids being raised in the system is a good thing,” Judkins said. “Kids should be raised in families, and preferably in their own families.”

Changing methods

In 2005, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels created DCS as a cabinet-level organization, reporting directly to his office. Before then, the Division of Family and Children – under the umbrella of the Family and Social Services Administration – oversaw child welfare issues. Along with the restructuring in 2005 came a renewed focus on creating uniformity in how child abuse and neglect is reported and processed. As part of that goal, in 2010 the DCS launched the new toll-free Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline.

Prior to the creation of the hotline, Judkins said, Indiana had 392 phone numbers for reporting child abuse. And after 4:30 p.m., when DCS workers went home for the day, incoming calls would roll over to local law enforcement. Little uniformity existed in how calls were handled.

“It was really that way every day at 4:30. And then on weekends, we frankly didn’t answer the phones either,” he said. “Two-thirds of the time, they weren’t going to get DCS; they would get probably a law enforcement agency or a contractual agency.”

Judkins said he’s uncertain about the accuracy of reported abuse and neglect calls prior to 2010. He also said that screen-outs – calls that are determined to not be about abuse or neglect – should have been noted in the system, but knowing that those calls would be purged in 30 days anyway, overworked operators may have neglected to log them.

Now, all hotline calls are answered in Marion County, 24 hours a day, every day of the week. And operators there apply the same criteria in evaluating reports across all counties. Dunn said that the slow drive toward uniformity could be causing the fluctuation in CHINS numbers from county to county.

“DCS has implemented a lot of new procedures and policies, and I think that those policies and the hotline have had different effects in different counties, depending on what their prior practice was,” she said. “So if you had a county that screened-out a lot to begin with, or tried to work with families before they filed a CHINS to begin with, and now, with the new hotline being centralized and new people answering it …. they may be more inclined to file a case because of the policies.” As a result, some counties’ numbers are going up.MethFeverChart.gif

When DCS rolled-out the new hotline, it also launched an advertising campaign to ensure people knew how to report abuse and neglect.

Substance abuse

Although the change in the way DCS handles reports of abuse and neglect may account for some of the unpredictable changes in new CHINS numbers, child welfare advocates say that substance abuse increases the odds that children will be neglected at home – particularly if the parents are abusing methamphetamine.

“I don’t think there’s any question that there’s neglect at a greater rate when parents are on a drug like that and are not able to give their attention to their kids,” Dunn said.
 

crawford-niki-mug.jpg Crawford

First Sgt. Niki Crawford, commander of the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section, said police are finding more meth labs in Indiana than ever before – and not just because they’ve become more adept at detecting them. Through June 30, 2011, police seized 741 clandestine meth labs, compared to 672 in the same timeframe last year. And in the first six months of this year, police identified 181 children living in meth homes. In all of 2010, 282 children were living in meth lab homes.

“Probably the number one issue is neglect,” Crawford said. “These children are simply neglected. They’re having to get themselves up and get ready for school, they have to make their own meals.”

A more grim side effect of meth use, Crawford said, is that it causes sexual arousal combined with poor judgment and erratic behavior, which often leads to sexual abuse in homes where meth is being used and manufactured.

Judkins said children would not necessarily be removed from homes where parents have abused drugs, but if the children are in danger or if the parents are taken to jail, DCS will remove the child.

Judkins, who lives in northeastern Indiana, said, “I think up there, every time you read the paper, it’s people getting arrested for meth use, meth labs, precursors – it’s cheap, it’s easy. I don’t know that we can do a lot about the meth issues; we’re in a reactive mode, and we get called after there’s a problem.”

The National Association of Children of Alcoholics reports that 79.6 percent of welfare professionals say drug and alcohol abuse contributes to at least half of all cases of child maltreatment.•

__________

In the next issue of Indiana Lawyer, read about how DCS efforts are reuniting broken families and exceeding national benchmarks for child permanency.

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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