Call for Statutory Change to Regional Services Council Membership

The statutes defining the membership (IC 31-26-6-7) of the regional service councils (RSC) should be revised to include probation officer and defense attorney members.  Juvenile court probation officers (PO’s) play a unique role in juvenile court that is far different than their criminal court counterparts.  Pursuant to IC 31-37-17-1, these PO’s identify possible disposition recommendations that are included in the predisposition report and act as the liaison between the juvenile court and the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS).  Their absence from the regional services council membership quiets a key voice in the juvenile delinquency proceedings.  Certainly, a juvenile court judge could send a PO as a proxy, but the roles of the judge and the PO are vastly different and the RSC should have both contributing to the conversation.

Using a slightly different rationale, a defense attorney who specializes in juvenile delinquency, CHINS, and termination of parental rights cases would provide a different, unique perspective for the needs of the clients in the region.  The RSC has a prosecuting attorney or designee as a member, with no defense attorney counterpart.  IC 31-26-6-7.  It would be best practice to include both a prosecutor and defender or neither.

The RSC membership varies by service region size.  See IC 31-26-6-7.  For regions of three or more counties, the RSC is composed of: (1) The regional manager, who must be an employee of DCS, (2) Three members who are juvenile court judges or their designees, (3) Three local DCS office directors, (4) Two DCS family case manager supervisors, (5) Two DCS family case managers, (6) Two licensed foster parents, (7) One guardian ad litem or court appointed special advocate, (8) One member who is a prosecuting attorney or the prosecuting attorney’s designee, (9) One individual who: (A) is at least sixteen (16) and less than twenty-five (25) years of age; (B) is a resident of the service region; (C) has received or is receiving services through funds provided, directly or indirectly, through the department; and (D) will serve in a nonvoting capacity.

For service regions consisting of one or two counties, the RSC is composed of: (1) Three DCS employees, including the regional manager, (2) One juvenile court judge or judicial hearing officer, (3) Two members who are designees of a juvenile court judge, (4) Two DCS family case manager supervisors, (5) Two DCS family case managers. (6) One licensed foster parent, (7) One guardian ad litem or court appointed special advocate, (8) One member who is a prosecuting attorney or the prosecuting attorney’s designee, (9) One individual who: (A) is at least sixteen (16) and less than twenty-five (25) years of age; (B) is a resident of the service region; (C) has received or is receiving services through funds provided, directly or indirectly, through the department; and (D) will serve in a nonvoting capacity.

In 2008, the legislature established regional service councils to meet periodically to develop and implement a strategic plan to provide services to children in need of services (CHINS), delinquents, and those who are at risk as defined by IC 31-26-6-5.  The strategic plan is to evaluate local child welfare service needs and determine the appropriate delivery mechanisms, with an opportunity for local service providers to provide input.  IC 31-26-6-6.

As the Commission on Improving the Status of Children (Commission) focuses on mapping of mental health and substance abuse services across the state, the RSC can play a role in reporting on the unmet needs of the children in the region and desired services.  However, the membership must include those working with the targeted children, especially juvenile delinquents.

See these previous posts about the Commission:

  1. First Meeting of Commission on Improving Status of Children.
  2. Commission on Children Follow-up.
  3. Mapping Mental Health Services in Indiana.
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