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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ind. Law - "Additional DCS reforms endorsed by Senate panel"

Dan Carden of the NWI Times reports today on three bills. The ILB believes one of them may be problematic.

From the story:

Two more proposals intended to protect Hoosier children and improve the Department of Child Services have cleared a Senate committee.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-0 for Senate Bill 125 establishing the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana.

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Loretta Rush, who is expected to lead the panel, told senators the 16-member commission would bring together leaders from the judicial, legislative and executive branches to review data and research on Hoosier children and "actually work toward better outcomes for kids in our state."

"Right now we don't have that central group that gathers the information so we can use the information to drive policy," said Rush, a former juvenile court judge in Tippecanoe County.

Mary Beth Bonaventura, Lake County's juvenile court judge who was named director of DCS today, also would serve on the commission.

The other proposal approved by the Senate committee, Senate Bill 164, restores the power of county prosecutors to file a Child In Need of Services petition without the consent of DCS. Prosecutors lost that authority in a 2008 rewrite of the DCS statutes.

David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said allowing prosecutors to file CHINS petitions gives them a way to get an endangered or mentally ill child the help he or she needs if DCS doesn't want to act — and without having to resort to charging the child with a crime.

"We don't want to replace DCS," Powell said. "If nothing else, it just provides a fail-safe."

Both measures were recommended by the Legislature's DCS study committee that met throughout the summer and fall. They now go to the full Senate for possible amendment and a final vote to send them to the House.

Here, from today's story, is a description of the third bill:
The committee action follows Tuesday's 47-0 Senate vote for Senate Bill 105, another study committee recommendation, that allows child abuse or neglect reports by employees of schools, medical facilities, courts or law enforcement to bypass the state's centralized abuse hotline and be referred directly to a local investigator.
Here is what Sen. Steele's press release Tuesday said about the bill:
STATEHOUSE (January 29, 2013) – The Indiana Senate today unanimously approved State Sen. Brent Steele’s (R-Bedford) legislation to improve the Department of Child Services (DCS) by allowing for more direct communication between local DCS offices and professionals who work with children. Senate Bill 105 passed the full Senate 47-0 and now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Steele’s bill would allow any law enforcement official, judiciary employee, medical professional or school official to report cases of child abuse or neglect directly to local DCS caseworkers rather than to the statewide child abuse hotline based in Indianapolis.

Steele said this change would reduce caller wait times and give local caseworkers the freedom to respond to reports from professionals without having to wait for direction from Indianapolis.

Now take a look at what the latest version of SB 105 actually says:
IC 31-33-1-2 IS ADDED TO THE INDIANA CODE AS A NEW SECTION TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 31, 2013]:Sec. 2. When confronted with a potential case of child abuse or neglect, any:
(1) law enforcement employee;
(2) judiciary employee;
(3) medical doctor or employee of a medical doctor; or
(4) school official;
may contact a local office of the department to report the suspected child abuse or neglect.

Look where it is added, as a new Section 2 (!) of the now one section "Purpose of Article" statement. How does it fit in with IC 31-33-5, "Duty to Report Child Abuse or Neglect."

What kind of records are to be maintained? See existing IC 31-33-7 "Receipt of Reports of Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect."

Does the making of a report under the proposed new section absolve the individual form liability under IC 31-33-22-1?

See also the discussion of the relevant reporting statutes in the majority and dissenting opinions in yesterday's COA opinion in Christopher Smith v. State.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 31, 2013 10:29 AM
Posted to Indiana Law