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Zay introduces bill aimed at DCS reform

Staff report

STATEHOUSE (Feb. 5, 2019) — State Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington) authored and introduced Senate Bill 365 this legislative session, which hopes to provide the necessary funding to pilot a child-welfare program in Indiana.

According to Zay and state reports, The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) has struggled to keep up with the surging number of cases in Indiana, as the foster care population in the state has increased by more than 50 percent since 2012. Zay said the rate of Hoosier children referred to child protective services is the third highest in the nation and more than twice the national average. 

“These are alarming statistics for our state,” he said. “Hoosiers must work together to create a support system for at-risk children. SB 365 would introduce a technology platform called the Care Portal, which would connect DCS and faith-based community programs to strengthen child welfare resources in our communities. The Care Portal is a unique solution that would help address both the growing number of cases and costs associated with satisfying the needs of children in our state. It’s time for Indiana to step up to ensure every child has the loving support system they deserve, and this legislation would be a first step toward addressing this issue.”

At least 18 states have implemented the Care Portal in select communities and found success, according to the press release. Since its roll out in 2015, more than 35,000 children and their families have had their real-time needs met by utilizing the platform, Zay says. 

Zay hopes SB 365 would connect key community stakeholders by bringing churches, nonprofits and child welfare agencies together to protect vulnerable children and strengthen families at a local level.

Zay plans to present SB 365 to the Senate Committee on Family and Children Services Feb. 11.

Zay’s bill is one of several bills addressing DCS on the floor of the statehouse DCS became a legislative focus after a 2018 report was commissioned after the DCS director stepped down, citing the threatened welfare of children in the foster care system.

Gov. Eric Holcomb allocated $25 million last year to help the agency, and lawmakers have said they are allocating additional resources to DCS in the next biennial budget being drafted this year.

Bills currently being proposed include limits on case loads for case managers, increasing foster care children’s ability to recieve collaborative care until they turn 21 and requiring DCS to initiate an assessment within two hours of recieving tips of abuse or neglect.