Kids’ Voice hopes to finalize contract with Child Advocates this week

Kids’ Voice of Indiana and Child Advocates are close to inking a deal after the city of Indianapolis announced it would be switching providers of the Guardian Ad Litem and CASA services for the Marion County juvenile court May 1.

Child Advocates has trained and overseen the staff and volunteers for GAL and court appointed special advocates program in the juvenile court in Marion County for nearly 40 years. However, in 2019, the Indianapolis Office of Public Health and Safety took over administering the contract and, after an assessment of Child Advocates’ accounting practices, decided to award the 2021 contract to Kids’ Voice.

When the change in providers was publicized earlier this month, Kids’ Voice talked about the possibility of enlisting Child Advocates as a subcontractor. Lindsay Scott, president and CEO of Kids’ Voice, issued a statement April 17, saying the agencies have been holding a series of meetings and recently were able to reach an agreement.

“(Friday, April 16), representatives from both organizations collectively signed a memorandum of understanding that serves as an important first step to protect the best interests of the children in the Marion County court system,” Scott said in a statement. “We now turn our attention to finalizing the initial subcontract necessary to ensure this work proceeds with minimal disruption.”

Scott told Indiana Lawyer the parties hope to have a contract finalized early this week.

Paul Jefferson, attorney with McNeely Law who has been representing Child Advocates in the talks with Kids’ Voice, said “there are still a lot of moving parts” but the goal is to ensure there are no gaps in services or, at least, only a very narrow gap.

While the two agencies are still trying to figure out their relationship, Jefferson said, the memorandum calls for Child Advocates to still provide the bulk the services for the GAL and CASA programs in the courts. He said nothing will change for the CASA volunteers and nothing, at least initially, will change for the Child Advocates employees.

“We’re coming together fairly easily. We understand each other,” Jefferson said of the contract talks. He added that the focus of both organizations is on the children who rely on the GALs and court appointed special advocates

Scott also expressed her appreciation for the level of cooperation.

“On behalf of the Kids’ Voice board, I would like to thank Child Advocates and their network of dedicated volunteers and staff who continue to put the needs of these children first,” she said in her statement.

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