Chesterton Tribune

Judges and sheriffs blast Indiana child abuse hotline

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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 in response.

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 for improvements.

“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.



Posted 8/22/2012