A history lesson: Statehouse GOP just don’t seem to care about the crisis at DCS

INDIANAPOLIS – What explains Indiana Republicans’ defensive, disjointed and political response to recent turmoil at the Department of Child Services?  Simple. They have no long-term vision or plan to address it. Why no plan? It seems vulnerable children just aren’t a priority for Statehouse Republicans.

Republicans know it’s a systemic issue

No one doubts deep, structural issues are driving the explosion of child welfare cases. And it isn’t new. Republican leaders themselves have made both those points clear.

Senate President David Long – “The same stories that we all heard from case workers in the past, I’m still hearing,” Sen. David Long, the Senate president, said. “It’s not Gov. Holcomb’s fault – it’s a systemic issue.”

Speaker Brian Bosma – “…it’s not a money issue. We have a systemic issue.”

Groundhog Day

2016 Indiana DCS struggles to keep up with pace of child abuse reports

2015 DCS caseloads plan questioned in budget hearing

2014 In wake of recent deaths, DCS still trying to hire more workers

2013 DCS under a microscope

A plan just doesn’t seem to be a priority

A review of the Republican caucuses’ priorities over the last handful of years reveals no specific efforts to strengthen the commitment to vulnerable children or to attack the “systemic issues” GOP leaders agree are the cause of these issues. For reference, vaping reform made the list of priorities in past years.

If you care about an issue, you make it a priority.

Study likely to point to known issues

Potential spoiler alert, at least a handful of the “systemic issues” are well-known.

A computer system from the 1990s relying on 1980s software and on the verge of collapse? Check. Caseworker morale issues, low pay and high employee churn? Check, check, check. Failure to comply with statutory caseload standards? Check.

Yes, a national group brought in for a fresh look at DCS isn’t a bad thing and identifying additional underlying factors should help prod Republicans to take specific action, but it doesn’t preclude lawmakers from bumping caseworker pay or other market-based strategies.

Progress on these issues could have been made during the 2018 session.

They are questions that Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody believes have just one answer.

“Hoosiers don’t need a study to know one caseworker juggling 150 child abuse investigations or software that makes Windows 95 look cutting edge is outrageous and unacceptable,” said Zody. “It’s about priorities and actions. It’s clear Holcomb and Statehouse Republicans are more interested in protecting their careers than vulnerable children.”

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