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State: Children's panel eyes meth and child abuse link

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A state commission seeking ways to improve the lives of Indiana’s most vulnerable children is forming a task force to investigate whether there’s a link between methamphetamine arrests and child welfare cases.

Members of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana voted Wednesday to create the task force after hearing about disturbing cases involving child deaths in homes where adults were using illegal drugs. In one case, a boy fell into a bucket of bleach and drowned after his mother passed out from drug use.

The director of Indiana’s Department of Child Services, Mary Beth Bonaventura, said Wednesday that drug use is a factor in the majority of the agency’s cases, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Commission members were particularly concerned by the prevalence of meth manufacturing in Indiana. Data from the Indiana State Police show that last year, 372 Indiana children were found living in places with illegal meth labs.

The commission was created earlier this year by the legislature and includes lawmakers, state department heads and judges.

The panel also created a task force Wednesday to work on better coordinating services for “crossover” youths - those who are the subject of simultaneous child welfare and delinquency cases.

Studies have shown that abused or neglected children have a much greater chance of being arrested as a juvenile, are often younger at the time of their first arrest and commit nearly twice as many offenses as children who aren’t mistreated.

Allen Superior Court Judge Charles Pratt said schools and other agencies that work with children often don’t communicate effectively, causing officials to either duplicate services or fail to address the real problem.

“The urgency of this is significant,” he said. “There is no process by which to address that child’s needs.”

Supreme Court Justice Loretta Rush, who chairs the commission, said children as young as six were arrested for “traumatic events” and brought in front of her when she was a Tippecanoe County juvenile court judge.

“We’re putting out fires,” Rush said.

 

Posted 12/12/2013