Despite efforts to meet the least-restrictive goals of the juvenile code, there are some children who need to be removed from their home and community to get intensive treatment at a residential treatment facility or be placed at a detention center or shelter care facility. But, what happens if something goes awry and the child is harmed in some way while at the facility?
First, it is incumbent on the assigned probation officer and the child’s attorney, if there is one, to keep in contact with the child and his/her family about what is happening in the facility. There may be times when the reports received from the facility and the verbal reports from the child or his/her family differ significantly. Occasionally, incident reports of physical injury may not be forwarded to the placing agency (probation officer), and the child and/or the family holds the key to the information getting to the court participants.
After discovering there has been an incident that resulted in injury or neglect, step one is to report the incident to the Department of Child Services (DCS) through the hotline as soon as possible. There is nothing in the ethics rules or the Indiana Code that shields the child’s attorney from a duty to report suspected abuse or neglect based on attorney-client privilege.
After DCS receives an allegation, there is an institutional child protective services (ICPS) team who is charged with reviewing incidents at facilities throughout the state. “Institutional Child Protection Services serves children who allegedly have been abused or neglected in any institutional or out-of-home care. Reports are received via the statewide hotline and investigations of abuse are initiated within 24 hours. This program determines whether the child should remain at the facility or home, whether adequate protection can be provided, whether referrals are needed for follow-up monitoring, and whether referral for prosecution of perpetrators is indicated (substantiated cases).”
The ICPS investigation may trigger additional responses within DCS. The DCS licensing review team may review whether the facility has been compliant with the documentation and services required to be licensed by the State of Indiana. The DCS contract review team may review whether the facility has violated the terms of the DCS contract. The DCS clinical review team is a new team developed to ensure that the children are receiving the therapy services indicated and that the services are properly administered. Each of these review teams also monitor all of the residential treatment facilities on a set schedule.
If the facility involved was a detention center, the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) is charged with monitoring the detention centers throughout the state to ensure compliance with the appropriate sections of the Indiana Administrative Code, which reference the American Correctional Association standards.
Simultaneous to any investigation by DCS or DOC, the court participants may file the required documents for a modification or review hearing to have the court determine whether the child should be removed from the facility, or whether changes in the treatment plan are necessary if the child remains at the facility.
The bottom line is that it may not be enough to ensure that the one child involved with the incident is safe and sound. If there is fear of an ongoing issue at any facility, seek the assistance of the supervising state agency and/or the courts to ensure that all current and future residents are thriving.