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Monday, September 03, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "DCS call center scrutinized: Workers blast turnover, 'screenouts' as study panel girds for testimony this week."

The Department of Child Services Interim Study Committee will meet this coming Wednesday, Sept. 5th at 1 PM. The agenda has been revised, it was originally to be devoted to hearing testimony on the hotline. Now it reads:

(1) Call to order.
(2) Receive and review status reports from the DCS Ombudsman.
-Susan Hoppe, Director of DCS Ombudsman Bureau.
(3) Public testimony regarding DCS child abuse and neglect hotline.
(4) Other business.
The agenda also now notes that the hearing will be videocast.

The heading to this ILB entry is from Virginia Black's long Sunday story in the South Bend Tribune. It begins:

Two former Department of Child Services hotline workers say management policies have led to the call center's 50 percent turnover rate and a system that effectively discourages the investigation of child abuse and neglect reports.

Meanwhile, as the General Assembly's study committee on DCS prepares to turn its attention this week specifically to the hotline, DCS officials have told the panel they are trying some pilot programs on how reports are made and that they are willing to discuss other possibilities in how the call center operates.

Since The Tribune in February published growing concerns about the hotline, parents, teachers, doctors, judges and law enforcement officials around the state began to report their dissatisfaction with how many fewer reports were being investigated.

Before 2010, when DCS began to roll out its single call center in Indianapolis, each county operated its own hotline. DCS Director James Payne has said the former system was inconsistent in how it took and reacted to reports and that the potential for bias was greater.

"Mandatory reporters" in child protection, such as teachers, police and doctors, have complained about long waits to talk with a hotline worker, unreturned calls, and that trust and ties with local DCS employees was lost. They complained that too many of their reports were being "screened out" rather than assigned for investigation.

DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan told the study committee during its first hearing Aug. 22 of "very legitimate concerns about the hotline."

In response, he said hotline calls from law enforcement officials -- police, judges and prosecutors -- are now automatically sent to local offices for investigation. They're debating whether to include in that policy calls from other professionals, such as school officials who report abuse.

This is a long, "must read" story.

Today the Evansville Courier & Press published a long "special" from Gov. Daniels. Here is the beginning and end:

For years, our administration has sat silently through frequent criticism of our initial attempt to repair and reform Indiana's welfare system. Much of the criticism was sincere and accurate, much was simply crude politics. But even when it crossed the line into inaccuracy, we endured it without protest; I told my co-workers in state government to make no reply until we could show with hard facts that the original problem had been addressed successfully. That time has arrived. * * *

The criticisms leveled at our welfare modernization efforts have been, for the most part, sincere and fair. I am disappointed that it took two tries, but gratified at the success of the second try.

Now that the facts are so dramatically transformed, I trust those who have been so critical will demonstrate their sincerity by modernizing their obsolete talking points. Then we can work together making the best-performing welfare system Indiana has had much better yet.

Also of note this weekend, Rebecca s. Green's very long story in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, headed "DCS statute irks prosecutors: Some say review teams usurp counties in child-death cases."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 3, 2012 09:34 AM
Posted to Indiana Government