INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The Indiana Department of Child Services will now get millions of dollars more from the state after this legislative session
But will the increased funding really help improve DCS?
Indiana’s DCS Director, Terry Stigdon, and her department made it through the 2019 legislative session.
“It was a whirlwind! It was my first budget session,” Stigdon explained. “I thought it went very well. I learned a lot that will definitely help me prepare for next year.”
Lawmakers gave DCS a bit less than the $286 million in additional money the department originally desired.
A spokesperson said Wednesday the funds are enough to keep DCS going. They hope to use that money to keep kids out of the system.
“What can we do as a state to prevent the children from entering the system in the first place?” Stgidon asked. “That’s the goal of this funding, to be more intentional about preventing children from entering the system versus waiting for them to enter and then having to intervene later on.”
“I want to know how they plan on spending that and supporting permanency for children, and supporting the TPR (termination of parental rights) timely filings of the 15 of the 22 months and how they’re going to support foster families,” Kristi Cundiff said. Cundiff is CEO of Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents.
Last year, the entire department got a top-to-bottom independent audit. According to the report, DCS needed to fix caseworker loads, retention and the number of open cases.
DCS promised changes, and it appears those changes are happening.
According to data shared Wednesday by DCS, at the end of April 2019, DCS had 23,263 open cases, which is actually lower than both 2018 and 2017.
DCS asked lawmakers for the money to help make the changes happen.
“They got money to obviously still work on case manager retention, and to work on supporting foster families better,” Cundiff explained. “But I think it’s to the point where we need to see action.”
Will that happen?
“I’m not hopeful.” Heidi Curtis, a former foster parent said Wednesday. “I want to be and I’m trying to look for reasons and I am engaging in any way I can, to see that outcome be the case.”
“I am optimistic and yes, I am hopeful that we’re going to get change,” Cundiff said.
“We need to make sure we’re providing resources to them, to help prodvide stability for the children that are in foster homes and make sure we’re supporting foster parents so they have the resources they need to keep the kids safe and in-home and do what we can to get the kids to permanency,” Stigdon explained.