(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Democrat Indiana gubernatorial candidate John Gregg is calling for reforms to the state’s Department of Child Services, saying the need to protect Hoosier children is a top priority.
“In recent years, the Department of Child Services has failed to provide necessary services for Hoosier families. Our children are our greatest resource, and as Governor I will fight to ensure that every Hoosier child has the opportunity to grow up in a safe and loving home,” Gregg said in Indianapolis Monday when unveiling his proposed reforms to the IDCS.
Gregg, who faces Republican Congressman Mike Pence and Libertarian Rupert Boneham on the November ballot, said his changes will expand access to DCS services, enhance awareness of adoption and make children a priority.
A centralized call center for handling child abuse and neglect reports is also in Gregg’s sights. He believes the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline is not working because many of the reports are being screened out.
“I am saddened to continue to see reports in the news of children dying at the hands of abusive caregivers even after responsible citizens have called the abuse hotline to report signs of abuse on those children. Other children are dying even after the Department of Child Services investigates and determines there is no abuse or neglect,” Gregg said.
The IDCS has seen large budget cuts in recent years. Governor Mitch Daniels reduced funding by $100 million, or 15 percent, in 2011. Another three percent, $16 million cut came in the 2012 budget, the Associated Press reports.
If elected, Gregg plans to restore part of the funding. Some of the funds would be used to create the Office of the Child Advocate to fight for and increase awareness of children’s issues.
“It is apparent that there needs to be someone who is responsible for ensuring all Indiana’s children are safe. Someone who has the independence and resources to look into such contradictions in the system,” he said.
Another of the reforms would reinstate prevention services that can keep struggling families together and keep Indiana teens out of juvenile courts. Gregg claims the move will allow parents of children with mental illness issues to receive services proactively, instead of waiting for juvenile courts to order them.
The candidate’s plan also includes launching a statewide promotion effort to increase adoptions in Indiana. In addition, adoptive parents would be given increased services such as counseling and medical care.
“We judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable people,” said running mate Vi Simpson, who joined Gregg for the announcement. “The Legislature and the people have said that they want these services provided to vulnerable children in Indiana. Under our administration, that is exactly what they will get.”
A spokesperson for Pence’s campaign told media outlets that the congressman does have a policy plan for child services, but it will be unveiled at a later date.
Boneham told the Associated Press he would like to see some of Indiana’s $2 billion in reserves put towards child services.