Kids’ Voice of Indiana will be the sole operator of the guardian ad litem and court appointed special advocate programs for Marion County juvenile courts after Child Advocates, which had provided those services for decades, rejected the subcontract agreement the two organizations had been negotiating.
“While we are disappointed by this outcome, we are ready to focus on the important work of providing children a voice as they navigate the Marion County court system,” Kids’ Voice president and CEO Lindsay Scott and board president Jon Desalvo said in a joint statement. “We have been planning for multiple scenarios since being awarded the city contract on March 31 to make sure there is minimal disruption in providing GAL/CASA services.”
Child Advocates has been training and overseeing staff and volunteers for the GAL and court appointed special advocate programs in the juvenile courts for nearly 40 years. In April, the city of Indianapolis announced it was switching service providers after a review of Child Advocates highlighted questionable accounting practices.
According to a press release from Paul Jefferson, the attorney representing Child Advocates, the two organizations began negotiations to try to reach an agreement so Child Advocates could continue providing the services as a subcontractor. However, the proposed contract from Kids’ Voice was unacceptable.
“Unfortunately, after reviewing what Kids’ Voice described as its ‘final offer,’ the board of Child Advocates determined it could not both fulfill its mission and enter into the subcontract as drafted,” the release stated.
A sticking point appears to have been related to certification. Kids’ Voice is not certified to provide CASA services in Marion County and, according to the press release, the contract offer left Child Advocates with “no meaningful control” over the programs.
“As the only certified provider, it would be a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Child Advocates’ certification to allow itself to be certified in name only,” the release from Jefferson stated.
Kids’ Voice is scheduled to finalize its contract with the Office of Public Health and Safety on Friday.
Scott and Desalvo stated Kids’ Voice has been interviewing and hiring staff and attorneys in preparation for taking over the GAL/CASA services.
“Indianapolis is fortunate to have many qualified people in the community who are passionate about advocating for the best interests of children in foster care or the child welfare system and well trained for these positions,” Scott and Desalvo said. “We encourage anyone who is interested in working with CHINS cases or serving as a CASA volunteer to reach out directly to Kids’ Voice.”