Indiana has more children taken from their homes as the result of suspected child abuse or neglect than the national average. The Indiana Department of Child Services is in the process of reforming a number of policies related to these cases.
Public defenders in Indiana do not receive comprehensive training on cases involving Children in Need of Services, or CHINs, and social workers are often not involved in court proceedings.
The Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana recently recommended a pilot program that would use a team of attorneys and social workers to better connect services to children and families in these cases.
Derrick Mason, an attorney on the Public Defender Commission, says similar programs have been tested in other states, and were recommended in a recent evaluation of Indiana’s Department of Child Services.
"They have shown in other localities that children are returned home more quickly, there are better outcomes and that ultimately dollars are saved," sasy Mason.
Those services could include addiction treatment or assistance on housing and employment.
Mason says the pilot would staff a team that includes attorneys, social workers and navigators for these cases.
"These individuals would at a minimum encourage early and full participation in services, inform the court of the best services available to the family prior to disposition and after," says Mason.
The statewide commission presents their recommendations to state agencies.