Children in the Department of Child Services are filing a lawsuit against Governor Holcomb, the Department of Child Services and the department’s director Terri Stigdon saying that the state has inadequately responded to child abuse cases. Senate Democrats have been fighting to improve the department’s ability to serve our state’s vulnerable children. Here are the bills we offered just in 2019 to ensure the safety and protection of these children, most of which did not receive committee hearings by Republican Chairs:

SB 15 Child Care and Development Fund Eligibility (Randolph) expands the exit threshold eligibility guidelines for the federal CCDF. The bill allows a child to continue to participate in the voucher program until the family’s income exceeds 250% of the federal poverty line.

SEA 258 Sex Offender Employment and Residence (Mrvan) close a perceived loophole in state law by prohibiting sexually violent predators and offenders against children from working as childcare providers or babysitters.

SB 297 Lead Testing of School Drinking Water (Randolph) requires that the drinking water in every school building in East Chicago or Hammond be tested annually for compliance with the national primary drinking water regulations.

SB 398 Adoption Subsidy Payments (Niezgodski) aims to improve the effectiveness of the Department of Child Services (DCS) by requiring the agency to give necessary funding to all adoptive parents of eligible special needs children. Sen. Niezgodski’s legislation was authored in response to the concerns of adoptive families who could not obtain the necessary funds from DCS to care for their children.

SB 400 Student Loan Forgiveness for Child Service Workers (Melton) establishes the department of child services student loan forgiveness fund (fund) to provide grants for student loan repayment assistance to eligible department of child services (DCS): (1) family case managers; and (2) supervisors. Provides that DCS administers the fund. Requires an applicant to: (1) be employed by DCS as a family case manager or supervisor; and (2) have been employed by DCS as a family case manager or supervisor for at least three years immediately preceding the application; to be eligible for student loan repayment assistance.

SEA 416 Medicaid Reimbursement for Doula Services (Breaux) would have provided a state program for doula services. The bill would have allowed for Medicaid reimbursement for these doula services.

SB 431 Child Placement (Ford) provides that the best interests of the child must be considered in determining placement of an alleged child in need of services who has been taken into custody.

SB 440 TANF Eligibility (Stoops) expands the income eligibility guidelines for the TANF program. The bill also increases certain payment amounts under the TANF program.

SB 615 – Lead Poisoning for Children (Breaux) The bill requires the state department of health to develop and distribute to primary health care providers a one page informational form that sets forth a series of questions for a child’s family concerning the child’s exposure to lead and directs a primary health care provider to have a child’s blood tested for lead if the child’s family gives certain answers to the questions. This bill is modeled after an Ohio policy, which screens children for exposure to unhealthy levels of lead.

SB 616 Civil Immunity for Child Advocates (Breaux) the bill provides that any guardian ad litem (GAL) or court appointed special advocate (CASA) appointed for a child in a juvenile court proceeding is immune from civil liability resulting from the child being placed on a waiting list due to unavailability of a GAL or CASA. (Under current law, this immunity applies only to a volunteer GAL or CASA appointed from, and funded by, the Supreme Court office of administration’s office of guardian ad litem and court appointed special advocate services.)

And here are a couple from 2018:

SB 381 – 2018 Session – Child In Need of Services (Breaux) provides that a child who is: (1) a victim of certain offenses; and (2) unlikely to receive necessary care, treatment, or rehabilitation without the intervention of the court; is a child in need of services. Provides that a child who: (1) lives in the same household as an adult who committed an offense against another child who lives in the household that resulted in a conviction or judgment; or (2) lives in the same household as an adult who has been charged with an offense against another child who lives in the household and is awaiting trial; and is unlikely to receive necessary care, treatment, or rehabilitation without the intervention of the court is a child in need of services

SB 130 – 2018 Session – Court Appointed Child Advocate Immunity (Breaux) provides immunity from civil liability for: (1) a guardian ad litem program; (2) a court appointed special advocate program; (3) an employee of or volunteer for a guardian ad litem program or court appointed special advocate program; and (4) an individual acting as a contracted guardian ad litem; when a child is placed on a waiting list for guardian ad litem or court appointed special advocate services

Senate Democrats have fought to protect children in DCS through legislation like what is listed above for many more years but have been unable to garner the support of legislators across the aisle. Protecting our children should not be a partisan matter; it should be a priority of all lawmakers. We will continue to fight on behalf of the voiceless because that is the right thing to do.