Legislators are working to further protect young Hoosiers in need by reforming the Department of Child Services.

While Indiana’s child welfare system has strengths, there are challenges to be addressed so that those in need have better outcomes. A proposal for a new law would implement recommendations based off national standards, best practices and the state’s unique needs.

A six-month assessment of DCS found that Indiana has a very high rate of children in out-of-home care, with more than half of the removals related to parental substance abuse. When families are struggling with substance abuse, treatment options and resources outside of DCS should be the first course of action to limit court involvement. To curb unnecessary removals, this legislation would more clearly define when a child is in need of services.

The assessment also determined nearly 45 percent of family case managers have caseloads above the state standard. To ensure case managers can provide effective services, caseload limits would be decreased.

To provide adequate time for employees to do their work, the bill would extend the timeframe for assessments to be completed by DCS caseworkers from 30 days to 45. Due to the rural nature of most of Indiana’s counties, the proposal would also allot two hours for caseworkers to conduct an on-site assessment, as opposed to one hour.

These changes, coupled with increased funding through the state budget, are part of a comprehensive effort to better serve the most vulnerable in our state and support Hoosier families in need.

To track this and other bills, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.