A consultant hired by the state says Indiana has more than double the number of children in out-of-home care compared to the national average.
The consultant, Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, was hired by Gov. Eric Holcomb to review the Department of Child Services after the resignation of former agency head Mary Beth Bonaventura. In her resignation letter in December, she accused Holcomb’s administration of service cuts that “all but ensure children will die.”
The contract Holcomb’s office signed with Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group runs from Jan. 2-June 21, 2018. Cost of the work will be capped at $146,630.
In a six-page initial progress report, the consultant sketched its plan for reviewing DCS. The work will include interviewing stakeholders such as children and families, foster parents, judges, law enforcement and caseworkers; examining outcomes and internal management data to assess how children are being served; and reviewing policies and case files.
Also, the consultant will shadow family case managers and supervisors in Allen, Clark, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.
The consultant has begun interviewing personnel at DCS, including the incoming director, Terry Stigdon. Thus far the consultant has little to report, although officials said Thursday they found the state needs a better system for tracking cases of child abuse and neglect.
The number of children placed in foster care because their drug-addict parents can’t care for them has surged across the country. But the problem is particularly acute in a handful of states including Indiana.