As usual, deep within the current budget bill lie changes to the juvenile code. This time, it involves a much needed change to the DCS hotline.
A number of citizens testified before the Interim Study Committees last summer — all proclaiming the centralized DCS hotline system to be problematic. The hotline proved to be especially frustrating for those in the juvenile court system. For example, many a judge, public defender, probation officer, and prosecutor have tried to call in a report on a child involved in the delinquency system, only to have the call screened out by the hotline workers in Indianapolis.
HB 1001 includes a provision that would modify IC 31-33-8-1 as follows:
(b) If a report of known or suspected child abuse or neglect is received from a law enforcement official, prosecutor, or judge requesting the department to initiate a child protection assessment, the department shall initiate an assessment in accordance with this section.
(c) If a report of known or suspected child abuse or neglect is received from:
(1) medical personnel;
(2) school personnel;
(3) a social worker;
(4) law enforcement personnel; or
(5) judiciary personnel;
the department shall forward the report to the local office to determine if the department will initiate an assessment in accordance with this section.
This is welcome recognition that those directly involved with the juvenile court system are contacting the hotline for a valid, vital reason. By forwarding the report to the local office, it also allows the local DCS staff, who may be very familiar with the family, to decide whether further action is necessary to protect the child. It is disappointing that public defenders were not included, but this portion of the bill will clearly be progress if passed into law. HB 1001 has passed out of the House and is currently working its way through the Senate process.