Kids’ Voice of Indiana has signed a contract with the city of Indianapolis to provide guardian ad litem and court appointed special advocate services to Marion Superior Courts through the end of 2023, with the nonprofit set to receive $5.4 million for the remainder of 2021.
The contract, which took effect Saturday, requires Kids’ Voice to get permission from the city before billing any particular line item that goes above the 2021 budgeted cost by 20% and prohibits the agency from exceeding $5.8 million for the year.
Also, the agreement does not include a fixed deadline for Kids’ Voice to obtain CASA certification from the state.
Lindsay Scott, president and CEO of Kids’ Voice, said her agency is working to ensure that youngsters involved in children-in-need-of-services or termination of parental rights cases have the services they need.
Within the past week, Kids’ Voice has onboarded almost 50 new staff members who are able to provide more than 3,500 children with a familiar face in court. In addition, a “vast majority” of the current court-appointed special advocate volunteers have filled out the agency’s online form and are currently working on active cases.
“I am proud of the existing and new Kids’ Voice team members’ dedication to children over contract structure,” Scott said in a statement. “Together we have accomplished so much in the last seven days and I am confident we will continue to do so.”
The Indianapolis Office of Public Health and Safety announced about a month ago it would shift the contract for the GAL and CASA programs from longtime service provider Child Advocates to Kids’ Voice.
Under the contract signed in February of last year, Child Advocates was to be paid $5.4 million for providing GAL and CASA services from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020. In December, the city amended the agreement to increase Child Advocates’ compensation to $6.3 million. The contract was amended again in February 2021 with Child Advocates continuing to provide the services through April 30, 2021, for $8.8 million.
Kids’ Voice cannot exceed $5.8 million without the city and the agency agreeing to amend the whole contract, according to Caroline Ellert, spokeswoman for OPHS.
“If Kids’ Voice breaches any of its duties under the contract, including the cost-control measures, the city is entitled to terminate the contract before its scheduled end date …,” Ellert said in a statement. “If it gives proper notice, the contract also entitles the city to do a ‘no fault’ termination at any time.”
The agency must submit its 2022 budget to the OPHS by Oct. 1, 2021. It then must be approved by both an independent auditor and the city before going into effect.
When the contract was shifted, Child Advocates questioned the qualifications and ability of Kids’ Voice to take over the GAL/CASA program in the courts. In particular, Child Advocates noted Kids’ Voice was not certified to provide the services.
The two nonprofits had tried to reach agreement with Child Advocates continuing to provide the services as a subcontractor. However, talks fell part days before Kids’ Voice finalized its contract with the city.
OPHS said a lack of certification will not stop the contract from being enacted.
“To clarify, the certification process is important for the city’s use of state grant funds to cover part of the cost of the contract but is not a prerequisite to Kids’ Voice performing the services,” Ellert said. “The contract does require that all attorneys and volunteers performing services for the courts under Kids’ Voice’s umbrella have all qualifications required by law, effective immediately. Kids’ Voice has indicated to us that it is in full compliance with that requirement.”