INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said Monday that he was “disturbed” after
finding out that the state’s child welfare agency failed to take action
after five different reviews conducted in recent years found problems at the
The revelation was
included in a sixth report on the Department of Child Services, which was
released in June by a consultant hired by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.
The latest report
stated: “in five years, external evaluators have prepared five evaluation
reports about DCS ... A large number of these recommendations have not yet
suggests that most, if not all, were conducted while Vice President Mike
Pence was Indiana’s governor. “I am disturbed by that,” Bosma said after a
Statehouse hearing on the findings. “I can tell you that this governor is
laser focused on this issue ... I know they aren’t going to drop the ball on
problems at the agency erupted into public view last December when former
DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura resigned. She accused Holcomb’s
administration of making management changes and service cuts that “all but
ensure children will die.”
Child welfare cases
have skyrocketed across the U.S. in recent years, as has the number of
children placed in foster care because their drug-addicted parents can’t
care for them. The problem is particularly acute in a handful of states,
But the report by
the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, the latest consultant brought
on to review the agency, raises questions over whether the state acts too
quick to remove kids from their homes over little things, like a parent who
tests positive for marijuana.
Parental drug abuse
was a factor in the removal of 7,015 children from their homes in 2017. That
accounts for 55 percent of all removals that year - up from just 28 percent
Karen Tallian of Portage said what remains unclear is the severity of
circumstances in many of those cases.
“Who are these kids
that are being removed from their houses and why?” asked Tallian. “This
report didn’t tell us that.”
The consultant said
one likely factor for the spike in cases was likely caused by a “culture of
fear” at the agency. That’s led child welfare workers to place concern over
“personal liability related to actions” above the “long-term well-being of
Paul Vincent, who
is director of the group, said a lack of resources, inexperienced workers
and a fear of reprisal likely led to a “vicious cycle” where workers would
escalate cases out of worry that they would be found responsible.
There is a “fear
that if they make a mistake they’ll immediately be terminated,” said current
DCS Director Terry Stigdon.
voiced interest in finding ways to reduce workers’ fear over liability. And
Bosma said lawmakers are looking into whether the agency needs more funding.
questioned whether modest changes will be enough, or whether the state even
has a full understanding of what’s going on.
“To say we can do a
couple little legislative changes ... I’m not sure we have a handle yet on
what is the big picture,” she said.