A resolution calling for a review of the Indiana Department of Child Service passed the Indiana Senate Committee on Family and Children Services Monday.
Senate Resolution 14, authored by Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, urges creation of an interim study committee specifically to examine policies and practices in DCS and make recommendations for changes and improvements within the agency. The study committee would meet for the next two interim sessions starting in 2018 and be comprised of members from both the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate.
Members of the Senate committee passed the resolution 6-0. Now it moves to the Senate floor. Republican Sens. Erin Houchin, of Salem, and Dennis Kruse, of Auburn, along with Democratic Sen. Jean Breaux, of Indianapolis, are co-authors.
The resolution was crafted in response to alarms raised by Mary Beth Bonaventura when she abruptly resigned as DCS executive director in December. The former Lake County Juvenile Judge charged children were being put at risk because of cuts to funding and services made by the governor’s office.
Gov. Eric Holcomb has hired Alabama-based Child Welfare Policy & Practice Group to review the agency and make recommendations. When Melton presented his resolution to the committee Feb. 12, he stressed the interim group would not interfere with the governor’s efforts. Instead, he said the executive branch should not be the sole voice in the process and that the Legislature needed to do its due diligence.
“Each legislator is elected to represent their constituency and it’s only appropriate that legislators from both parties be represented in any review,” Melton told the committee. “This is important to ensure our Hoosier children statewide have representation for their needs and receive the appropriate care required.”
Senate Minority Leader and ranking minority member of the committee Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, echoed Melton. He noted since the consultants will not finish their final report until after the Legislature has adjourned. The interim committee would be in place to receive those findings and take action.
Melton’s resolution is among several pieces of legislation related to DCS introduced this session with nine bills passing through their respective chambers.
Since then, the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs has unanimously passed the following:
- SB 128 (requires a motion be filed and notice given for change of placement);
- SB 135 (provides civil immunity for guardian ad litem and CASA workers as well as DCS employees and volunteers);
- SB 184 (allows up to six foster children to be placed in one home);
- SB 233 (calls for an update to foster parents’ statement of rights and responsibilities):
- SB 381 (designates as a CHINS a minor who lives in the same house as an abused child);
- SB 428 (requires DCS to make an effort to coordinate with school officials).
Also, last week the Senate Committee on the Judiciary approved House Bill 1406 (pertains to the collection of child support) and the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development passed HB 1314 (requires the State Board of Education to collaborate with the departments of education and child services).