February 25, 2020

House Committee Scales Back DCS Oversight Bill

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Indiana Statehouse - FILE PHOTO: Brandon Smith/IPB News

Indiana Statehouse

FILE PHOTO: Brandon Smith/IPB News

A House committee dramatically scaled back a bill that would’ve provided greater oversight of the Department of Child Services.

The original bill would’ve created a new committee, required to investigate decision-making at DCS over every case in which a child is seriously hurt or dies after having contact with the agency.

But a House panel decided instead to pursue resurrecting an old legislative study committee dedicated to examining child welfare issues.

READ MORE: Stakeholders: DCS Progress Since Independent Report Isn't Far Enough, Fast Enough

Juvenile court Judge Faith Graham likes that change. She says there are already several state, county and local boards tasked with reviewing child fatalities, making a new one unnecessary. And she says the study committee is better suited to look at a broad range of issues with DCS.

“Be able to make an informed decision after looking at data that is perhaps more efficient and fiscally responsible,” Graham says.

Foster parent Heidi Curtis has regularly urged lawmakers to address what she sees as problems at DCS. She says the real issue is that all the existing committees lack adequate representation.

“Why is there not community members at these committees?" Curtis says. "Why is just the fox watching the henhouse? Why is it all the same people singing their praises?”

A House committee is expected to vote on the bill later this week.

Contact Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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