While reading this horribly sad article about a child’s deterioration while in placement, it reinforced the message that each of us in the system — prosecutor, public defender, probation officer, family member, DCS employee, CASA, and judge — have a duty to keep track of the children in placement. Someone needs to actually lays eyes on the child from time-to-time. The facility needs to be visited to ensure that it is not deteriorating. Look for signs of abuse and neglect. Review the treatment records from month to month and ensure that sections are not simply cut and pasted, but rather the document is actually updated and current.
Be vigilant that the child is safe and being treated.
Over the past years, many of us have had cases where our children/clients were placed somewhere we believed was safe and appropriate, only to learn that something had happened:
- the child was harmed by another child or staff,
- the child was medically neglected,
- the child was not receiving the treatment stated,
- the child was educationally neglected,
- the child was deteriorating,
- the child was injured in an accident that was never reported.
Recently, some court participants have been advocating cost-saving measures, such as Skype or just using phone calls, to save travel costs for the approximately 80 Indiana counties that do not have a detention center, treatment facility, or DOC facility in the county. These technologies are certainly a good option in many cases most of the time. But, someone has to physically see the child in the same room from time-to-time, whether in court, at the facility, at the probation department — somewhere.
You do not know what you will find. I personally have learned that lesson the hard way.