INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Judges and sheriffs in Indiana complain that a new
system that routes all child abuse hotline calls through a central intake
center in Indianapolis is plagued with problems, including critical delays
Respondents to an informal survey by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, cited
frustration at the system’s inefficiency.
The Indianapolis Star reported Wednesday that several judges and sheriffs
who responded said callers were often asked questions they couldn’t possibly
answer and that they complained they often did not know if their concerns
would be investigated.
A legislative study committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon to
discuss concerns about the hotline.
The state Department of Child Services decided more than two years ago to
route all child abuse calls through a central intake in Indianapolis rather
than have each county take calls from that area. Department officials say
the Indiana hotline is a “model for other states.”
Steele said he conducted the survey because he wanted to hear about the
experiences of people who rely on the system.
Even after a hotline worker determines that a caseworker should investigate
a child abuse allegation, law enforcement faced long waits for that
caseworker, Steele’s survey found. “It can be as much as two hours before a
DCS person comes to the scene,” Benton Circuit Judge Rex Kepner wrote.
Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer wrote of delayed responses, saying in some
instances caseworkers did not hear about calls of suspected abuse until
hours after a call to the hotline, possibly further jeopardizing that child.
"One occasion, the child had to be removed from the bus (on the way home
from school),” Troyer wrote.
DCS chief of staff John Ryan said the agency is aware of the issues raised
in Steele’s survey and defended his agency’s willingness to listen to calls
“DCS has been addressing feedback and questions about the hotline from its
conceptual stage,” he said.
Ryan said DCS has started a pilot program to address some of those concerns
by allowing “local child protection teams” to review calls that aren’t
assessed and permits law enforcement agencies to contact DCS offices if they
require immediate assistance.
Ryan said DCS will follow up to see how that’s working.