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Out-of-state placement bill goes to House

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A legislative committee has given its OK to a bill that would repeal a last-minute 2009 special session provision, which gave the Indiana Department of Child Services key control in deciding whether juveniles can be placed outside the state.

At the House Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday, lawmakers voted HB 1167 out of committee and on to the full House for consideration by a vote of 9-2. Reps. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, and Dennis Avery, D-Evansville, opposed the bill and favored keeping that decision-making authority with the DCS, while Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, didn't vote. Voting for the measure were Reps. Erich Koch, R-Bedford; Wes Culver, R-Goshen; Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven; Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis; Jeb Bardon, D-Indianapolis; Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis; Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend; Trent Van Haaften, D-Mt. Vernon; and Linda Lawson, D-Hammond.

The last-minute change came during the special session that ended June 30. In October, Commission on Courts members expressed frustration that this provision was inserted into a massive budget bill and said many lawmakers likely didn't know about or fully understand the measure. Committee members voted to recommend that the Indiana General Assembly repeal that key provision, and this legislation is the result. DCS Director James Payne, a former Marion Superior juvenile judge, testified at the hearing and said there's no reason to send children out of state because Indiana offers adequate programs and facilities for judges to place children.

He said 64 percent of the in-state options are filled to capacity, meaning there's a 36 percent vacancy rate. "Only on a rare occasion should we look at that," he said, adding that three requests have been made since this law took effect July 1, 2009 - two have been approved, one is still being considered.
Payne also pointed out that despite the placement inside or out of the state, many juveniles return to the communities they came from and get into trouble.

St. Joseph Juvenile Judge Peter Nemeth testified in support of the bill, advocating for a return to local juvenile judges making decisions on placements.

"One of the most important things I do is place children, and it's important that we get it right. But I'm not the only one who has to hear it now ... 'superjudge' has to hear it and approve it. That's a ridiculous system," he said.

Reading a letter from a child he sent to an Arizona facility, Judge Nemeth said that juvenile is going on to college now, something that might not have been possible with an in-state placement. He considers that placement a lifesaver for that juvenile.

"Isn't that what we're supposed to do?" he asked lawmakers. "If you don't approve this, I won't be able to do this in the future. If we have a one size fits all, then what do you need a judge for? Why not just feed the information about a case into a computer to make the decision? That's basically what 'superjudge' is doing."

Lawmakers didn't seem to keen on the idea of taking away judges' decision-making power on the out-of-state placement issue. Several noted that they hadn't heard of massive out-of-state placements or any judicial abuse happening at the local level on this, and that local judges who actually heard the evidence on a case is in a much better position to decide that instead of "a bureaucrat" in Indianapolis who hasn't been involved in the case.

Payne told them that judges and local caseworkers continue having a voice in the process, and this just provides oversight to make sure those judges are using reasonable efforts to find an in-state placement. He also said he regularly communicated with the DCS director during his time on the bench about the issue of out-of-state placements.

Additionally, Payne told lawmakers that the issue was about economic viability - that tax money and services are being sent out of state rather than being kept internally. If those out-of-state-service providers offer something that Indiana doesn't currently have, he'd rather see those services come to Indiana rather than shipping kids there.

But Van Haaften told the agency director that he seemed to be cheerleading for service providers in-state and tiptoeing around the core issue of what that last-minute change is all about: the executive branch, through the DCS, treading into the judicial branch's scope of authority. Foley, one of the two voting against the repeal bill, said he wasn't opposed to the idea of the DCS authority here because the agency has broader access to resource information than a local judge might have, and he thinks a child is more likely to be put in the right place if all options are being looked at. Pryor pointed out the stark difference in testimony between Payne and Judge Nemeth - one saying that placement doesn't make much difference because juveniles typically return to those home communities, while the judge talked about reforming kids and keeping them out of the system.

The bill now moves on to the full House for consideration. It must be passed on third reading by Wednesday in order to move on to the Senate for consideration.

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  1. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  2. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  3. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  4. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  5. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

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