INDIANAPOLIS—Gov. Eric Holcomb used an event kicking off Child Abuse Awareness Month on Monday to highlight improvements made at the state’s Department of Child Services and to remind the public that child abuse is an issue affecting all Hoosiers.
Before an audience of DCS employees holding blue and silver pinwheels, Holcomb and DCS Director Terry Stigdon pointed to improvements made at the agency over the past year, including reduced employee turnover, providing raises and making other changes to better manage caseloads.
Terry Stigdon, director of the Department of Child Services, and Gov. Eric Holcomb plant pinwheels on the lawn of the Statehouse as a symbol of the fight against child abuse. Photo by Bryan Wells, TheStatehouseFile.com
“We’re coming together like never before and were not ignoring the stats or the numbers and were getting at this from the ground level up,” said Holcomb. “I, for one, am optimistic about the path we’re on.”
The event came as the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that Indiana has the second highest number of children who are victims of child abuse, behind Kentucky. In 2017, the latest year of data, showed that Indiana had 18.6 incidents per 1,000 children.
It was at the end of 2017 that the former director of DCS, Mary Beth Bonaventura, resigned saying her agency didn’t have the resources to keep children safe.
Since then, the state has hired an outside consultant to make recommendations to improve services.
Last year, Holcomb redirected $25 million from the state’s budget surplus to address some of the DCS issues. Now, the proposed 2019 two-year state budget would add $286 million to the agency’s annual budget, bringing the total to more than $900 million.
“We are making progress,” Holcomb told the employees, adding that they are the ones making the difference.
Stigdon joined Holcomb in expressing optimism about the improvements being made within the DCS and its ability to help children in need.
“My dream for Indiana is to get to a point where we no longer need a department of child services like the one you see today,” she said.
Following the event Holcomb, Stigdon and others planted the pinwheels on the Indiana State House lawn to symbolize the fight against child abuse.
Andrew Longstreth is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.