Indiana has a part time legislature. This means that in odd-numbered years legislators convene at the Statehouse for the first four months of the year, and in even-numbered years we convene for only three. Because we are part-time and legislative needs aren’t always perfectly timed according to our schedule, the state constitution allows us to convene for what is called a “special session,” but only in the event of an emergency.

When I read former Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura’s scathing resignation letter back in December, I knew Indiana legislators had an emergency on our hands. Allegations of department policies, failing technology and an overall lack of services putting children at risk are urgent. A matter that would have called for a special session had we not been going into a regular session in just a month. This time the legislature had an opportunity to solve a true emergency during normal work hours and ensure the safety of our children. Unfortunately, or confusingly, however you look at it, Statehouse Republicans dismissed that prime opportunity and let any legislative solutions we could have offered wait until an outside party had completed their investigation of the Department. A boggling delay tactic since we already know case manager turnover is high, services are lacking and the opioid crisis is sending children into foster care at a rate more than double the national average.

There are things the legislature could have done and we were told we could not.

Now, we have a special session scheduled to handle matters the governor and supermajority leaders deem are urgent enough to reconvene the legislature. Apparently, additional tax breaks for corporations are more important than vulnerable children. I disagree wholeheartedly.

We’ve already missed one opportunity to make a difference and just this week, in a State Budget Committee, we learned that DCS is a whopping $284 million over budget. Now, does that not seem like an urgent concern? I think it’s an emergency that the Department can’t keep up with the amount of children coming into its care and despite large budget overages, staffing and services are inadequate.

The Republican supermajorities were not up to task in their ability to finish their agenda by midnight this past March 14. The special session is taking place for no other reason than that. We do, however, have the opportunity now to accomplish something urgently needed. It is our obligation as state elected representatives to serve our children in this emergency situation. We must find solutions for DCS on May 14. While the governor said our children can wait until 2019, I don’t think most Hoosiers feel the same.

We have to do something now. Our children are worth it.