Yesterday, Gov. Eric Holcomb outlined the immediate steps he will take to improve the state’s Department of Child Services (DCS)—including tapping the state’s surplus to increase support to the agency in key areas and appointing a new associate director to implement the recommendations of a just-completed agency assessment. The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group (CWG) conducted the six-month assessment of the agency and developed 20 recommendations based on its findings. Gov. Holcomb called for this thorough review of the agency in Dec. 2017. The CWG report outlines 20 recommendations aligned to CWG’s findings regarding DCS’ strengths and challenges. The report identifies the following needs:
-Treat and support families struggling with substance use disorders
-Re-launch the family-centered practice model of care
-Improve coordination among state agencies that support Indiana families and children
-Refine state statute and regulations to serve Indiana families and children better and more efficiently
-Revise internal DCS policies to serve families and children better and more efficiently
-Engage stakeholders from all government branches as well as the provider community to gain important insights and guidance for improved DCS service to families and children
-Improve use of data and technology to more effectively support DCS’ mission to serve Hoosier families and ensure child safety
-Transform the culture at DCS to encourage better decision making, training, professional development and advancement—particularly for those employees working directly with vulnerable children and families
One of the main challenges in the CWG assessment includes the difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified staff members to help Indiana’s most vulnerable children and families. DCS Director Terry Stigdon will begin retooling the agency’s review process, allowing employees to feel safe and supported while giving them more opportunities for advancement. Another part of the assessment looks at the importance of recruiting and retaining foster families to provide a safe, stable and timely placement for children. DCS will begin work to make sure foster families have adequate support while also increasing efforts to add more foster families by the end of 2019. To give young adult Hoosiers in need more help, Stigdon said the agency will work to extend the age so that foster youth can receive services from 21 to 23.