Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

July 2, 2013

Commission on children starts work fixing system of services

Group tasked with examining how agencies help or hinder child welfare.

(Continued)

By the time the girl was in Rush’s court, she was victim of repeated sexual abuse. “I remember her describing the abuse and her asking me, ‘Is this too hard for you to hear?’ “ Rush recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Too hard for me? This should be too hard for you.’”

Last year, at the invitation of the Indiana Judicial Conference, the National Center for State Courts took a look at how Indiana was serving the needs of the state’s vulnerable children.

It found there are more than 30 Indiana-based entities, committees or groups that focus on various issues affecting children. It also found a lack of communication among key agencies that caused duplicated efforts and divisive turf battles, resulting in extra costs to taxpayers.

The commission that Rush will chair for the next year will take a closer look at that report. It includes members of all three branches of government, and includes the superintendent of public instruction, the attorney general, the head of family and children services, and four legislative leaders.

State Sen. Carlin Yoder, a Republican from Middlebury who supported the legislation that created the commission, said the law mandates that agency heads, not their representatives, sit on the commission.

“It’s important that the decision-makers sit at that table, and work together,” Yoder said. “Hopefully they’ll put aside everything but their concerns about how to best protect the children of Indiana.”

By law, the commission will continue its work until at 2017; there’s a provision that allows the commission to be extended beyond that.

“This isn’t something that can get done in a year,” Yoder said. “This needs to be a long-term effort.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

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