INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Department of Child Services will redirect $37.8 million to various services aiding abused and neglected children, officials announced Wednesday.
Last year the agency reverted more than $100 million to the state general fund to build the state surplus at the end of the fiscal year. But this year they are keeping more money for services and are reverting only $16 million.
We still have funds available to promote and implement programs, said John Ryan, chief of staff for the agency. Were spending more wisely.
The newly identified spending is a reallocation of money within its existing budget as the agency spends less on foster and institutional care.
Advocates cheered the news – especially after seeing cuts in recent years to preventive services.
The news is absolutely wonderful, said Rachel Tobin-Smith, executive director for SCAN, or Stop Child Abuse & Neglect. We know the need is out there. I dont know how much this means for our region but it cant be anything but good news because some money will come here to help families.
She added that state officials always knew prevention is important and now that the recession is over and state tax dollars are rising again they are keeping their commitment.
The $37.8 million will be spent on five programs over the next three years:
Community Partners will receive an additional $5.3 million each year to provide short-term services ensuring a safe and stable environment at home for children.
Healthy Families will receive an additional $2 million a year to provide prevention services to high-risk families with children up to 3 years old. This program had seen major cuts in recent years, dropping its funding from $42 million annually to $25 million. With the added dollars, it will be back up to $34 million a year.
Tobin-Smith said it costs about three times as much to provide services to a child after they enter the DCS system compared to prevention for families beforehand.
Relative Care will receive an additional $2 million each year to cover additional services for relatives caring for children who have been removed from their homes.
Concrete Support Services will receive an additional $1.3 million a year to provide food and shelter for families.
A new program – After-Care services – will receive $2 million a year to provide services to families for six months after their DCS case is closed. Some recent media coverage has focused on cases where abuse and neglect occurs after the agency steps away from the family.
In addition, DCS is creating a separate $10 million program called Collaborative Care aimed at youth who leave foster care after they turn 18. It will include help with housing and educational options.
Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, said she appreciates the agency will be using the money to provide services.
But, overall, she said it doesnt address major questions about the agency, including its centralized abuse hotline and inability of some local prosecutors to get mental health services for children.
It doesnt get to the heart of the issues that people have been raising – if all the kids are in the system that should be and if they are getting the treatment they should get, she said.
A summer legislative study committee will focus on some of these issues in the coming months.