April 7, 2021

City Will Not Renew Longtime CASA Contract

File photo.  CASA workers at the statehouse.

File photo. CASA workers at the statehouse.

The city of Indianapolis won’t renew its contract with the nonprofit providing Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASAs, for youth in the child welfare system. The change comes after an external report examined expenses for Child Advocates.

The Office of Public Health and Safety, OPHS, notified Child Advocates of the decision last week. The report finds insufficiencies in spending that the nonprofit disputes.

Child Advocates CEO Cindy Booth said the move is concerning.

“That uncertainty and the quick way in which this has been done has really made us nervous about the safety and wellbeing of the children we currently have responsibility for,” Booth said.

Booth said Child Advocates complied with all of the accounting that OPHS requested through the assessment process. The city says the initial $5.4 million contract was amended to more than $8 million. 

Child Advocates has provided legal representation for children in need of services, or CHINs, in Marion County since 1982. CASA volunteers help youth who are often abused or neglected. 

In an email OPHS spokesperson Caroline Ellert said another nonprofit, Kids’ Voice, will take over as contractor next month.

“Who would in turn subcontract with Child Advocates and would allow for no disruption in the critical services Child Advocates provides,” Ellert said.

Child Advocates said terms of a subcontract have not been agreed on yet. The group says Kids’ Voice is not properly certified to provide services in CHINs cases.

OPHS said the move was made based on the findings of the assessment, but Booth doesn’t agree.

“I do not believe that report played into the decision not to renew our contract,” Booth said.

Child Advocates has helped more than 7,000 children in Marion County each year, about a quarter of the state’s child welfare system.

OPHS took over management of the contract from the county court system in 2019.  The courts were consulted in the decision.

In recent years, Child Advocates has implemented programs to improve racial equity within the court system and outside of it. Booth said the organization will continue to focus on children regardless of the county’s decision.

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