At the last three or four Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) regional services council meetings for region 12, Judge Mary G. Willis — voicing her own concerns and those of the probation officers present but unable to participate due to statutory council membership limitations — has asked that DCS policy be modified to allow access to DCS specialists. These specialists are available for CHINS (children in need of services) in complex cases, but not for juvenile delinquents. Many of these delinquent children face the same challenges, and are all too often former CHINS.
Beginning in 2011, DCS “create[d] a number of specialized positions…. These employees … provide subject matter expertise and serve as an invaluable resource to field staff in navigating challenging issues and barriers to child well-being and permanency in areas such as behavioral health, medical, education, and parent locating.” (State of Indiana Annual Progress and Services Report, p. 8-9)
- Clinical Services Specialists are licensed mental health professionals to address case planning and service coordination support for cases involving mental health issues, including substance abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence.
- Education Specialists “ensure foster children receive the educational opportunities they need to succeed in school, and in life.”
- Nurses to “ensure all children  receive the medical and dental care they need and deserve.”
- Parent/Relative Locate Investigators attempt to locate parents and extended family, who in some cases may become guardians or custodians of the child.
There was a brief period of hope, when DCS reportedly was considering a pilot program for region 12 to allow access to these specialists. However, it was announced at the October 20, 2014 regional services council meeting that the request for the pilot program had been denied.
Why is there a continuing division in the way we treat our children who need access to services? If DCS is going to continue to hold the purse strings to the money entrusted to it by the State of Indiana for the care of our children (both CHINS and delinquents), why can’t all children in need of services be given access?
If any argument is being made that there is not enough money to hire additional specialists to handle the needs of delinquent children, consider this editorial, Penny-Pinching at DCS Keeps Money from Kids, published on October 18, 2014, which noted that “[i]n the last fiscal year, [DCS] reverted more than $4 million earmarked for child protective services. In 2013, about $3.8 million went unspent. The figures represent a small percentage of the agency’s $550-million-plus budget…”