An update on efforts to protect children across Indiana

June 5, 2014 Gail Riecken

For immediate release:
June 5, 2014


INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville) today issued the following update on efforts to protect the lives of abused and neglected children across Indiana:

At the most recent meeting of the Commission on the Status of Children, we received some good news.

One of the ongoing problems we have seen through the years has been the inability to retain many of the people who work on the front lines in protecting our children. It’s not an easy job to answer the hotlines that serve as the first line of defense in finding out about problems or to serve as one of the family case managers that investigate these complaints. It’s tough work and it is difficult to find many who are willing to go through with it day after day, week after week, and year after year.

As a result, one of our priorities in overseeing the system has been to find ways to reduce the high turnover rates.

We are seeing positive results.

By regionalizing hotlines, we have been able to attract new workers who can provide a fresh look at the problems our children face.

By hiring more family case managers, we have been able to reduce caseloads and make the work more manageable.

As a result, turnover rates are down. For that, DCS should be congratulated.

Now, here are some issues that I feel must be addressed in the months to come:

  • One of the nationally-recognized indicators of a state’s success is its ability and willingness to address recurring child abuse and neglect. I am hopeful the DCS Oversight Sub-Committee can address this topic in future meetings.
  • DCS also is about to embark on a study of a new way to address the needs of children at risk. The differential response system takes into account the variation in the nature of reporting and the value in responding differently to different types of cases.
  • As I have discussed before, Indiana’s sorry record of infant mortality must be addressed, and sooner rather than later. Indiana ranks among the top five in incidence of infant deaths, with a rate of 7.7 per thousand. By comparison, the national average is 6.6. An infant mortality task force is in place to make inroads in reducing those numbers.

I believe more time must be taken in studying the link between substance abuse and the ability of parents to take care of their children.

When we examine areas of critical shortage, one factor that cannot be ignored is the lack of workers in the field of behavioral health. As we speak, 75 percent of the professionals in this field are aged 55 years and older. Too many areas of our state have a critical shortage right now.

We continue to see many problems in our work, but it is heartening to see that there is now a means to discuss those problems and work together to find solutions. After too many years of bureaucratic neglect, progress is being made.