The Indiana Department of Child Services has been in the news lately, and not in a good way. Gov. Eric Holcomb used part of his State of the State speech Tuesday to acknowledge that fact, and to say strongly that he will work to make sure the agency is doing all it can for children.
“I’ll state right now: There’s no one who cares more about Hoosier children than I do, and I’ll do whatever is necessary to ensure the success of our agency and its mission,” he said during his speech.
The issue boils down to the proposition that state government has an obligation to do everything it can to ensure the safety of children, especially those living in homes where they are abused and/or neglected. Many people who work with these children every day have said the state is falling short of this important obligation.
Former DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura submitted her resignation in December with a strong letter of condemnation that said cuts to DCS funding and services were putting children at risk. The letter said continuing with policies coming from Holcomb’s office “all but ensure children will die.”
Children have been the innocent victims of the opioid epidemic that has enveloped the state. The number of children coming into contact with the court system in Monroe County is rising rapidly, according to the number of children assigned to the Monroe County Court Appointed Special Advocates program. Director Kristin Bishay told the Bloomington Rotary Club Tuesday, the same day as Holcomb’s address, that the opioid epidemic “is severely affecting our children” and that 98 percent of cases being referred to CASA involve a parent who has an addiction. That’s up from 60 to 70 percent just a couple years ago.
She said the service industry around the state is imploding. Asked if the state system is broken, she said simply: “Yes.”
That’s the view from the ground.
Holcomb further said “we’ll be transparent and we’ll provide you with progress reports.”
Hoosiers will be watching.