I have now written not once, not twice, but three times about the Indiana Department of Child Services' failure to produce a
child fatality report for the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years.
I hypothesized that DCS would not release a report before the Indiana General Assembly session ended in 2010.
I stated that DCS would sit on the report because it knew that if the child death numbers went up, legislators might want to actually spend money on children or might want to slow DCS' efforts to cut costs with service providers.
I also said the Governor would look foolish for all the boasting he did during his re-election campaign about how adding family case managers would mean better outcomes if, as I predicted, the numbers rose from the all-time low of 36 deaths in FY 2007.
Call me iPOPAdamus.
After only 643 days, the new report is here. The child abuse and neglect fatality number for FY 2008? An increase of 10, to 46.
In fairness to DCS, sometimes no matter what the agency, police, churches, schools, service providers, judges, guardians ad litem, or kind strangers do, children will be killed by evil parents. There's not always a tell-tale sign for the homicidal parent.
But if you strongly imply you're saving kids by adding 800 government employees to the state payroll then it's fair game to ask whether those new case managers are properly trained or whether the agency has a massive turnover rate, or whether DCS is paying millions to service providers for parents without any method for assessing whether the services even work...because it sure isn't working out like you claimed, Governor.
DCS' 2007 report makes a point of noting that not only did the overall number of child abuse and neglect fatalities decrease from 53 to 36, but also that the number of deaths among children with DCS contact went down from 11 to 9.
In the new report, the number of fatalities with DCS contact rose to 15.
Recognizing the obvious, how does DCS respond?
The rise in fatalities from 2007 to 2008 is in part attributed to the collaborative effort to report all child fatalities. Overall, 198 deaths were reviewed in 2007 and 290 were reviewed in 2008. There is an increased awareness in child welfare professionals such as police, coroners, and hospitals personnel who are working together to report all unexpected, unexplained, and suspicious child deaths to DCS.
In other words, DCS is telling you there were just more reports made.
I certainly won't dispute that, but doesn't DCS have to acknowledge that there might have been 66 abuse and neglect deaths in 2006, not 36? Isn't it admitting, point blank, that it has no idea how many actual deaths have occurred in the past because of the very underreporting it acknowledges for 2007? Even now, couldn't the the number be higher for 2008 than 46, given that the additional reporting is based on a PR "collaborative" effort to report deaths, not legislation creating a statewide mandate to law enforcement, hospitals, and the like to report the same?
Doesn't DCS have to admit that Dr. Antoinette Laskey, director of the task force, is right that Indiana will never truly know how many children die at the hands of abuse and neglect until such a mandatory protocol exists for investgating all children's deaths and the state child fatality review team has a budget for performing its work?
But here is what's really interesting. If you read the DCS report cover page, you will see that it says "Published January 2010."
If this report was published in January of 2010, how come when I called in January, February, and March, I was told the report wasn't ready, and why is the report being released to the media on April Fool's Day? From DCS's press release:
Indianapolis, IN- April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and it is a time to remind everyone the importance of prevention and child safety. In conjunction with Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) 2008 Child Fatality Report was released today.
Is there anything that could account for the delay in issuing a "published" report?
Oh, did I tell you when the Indiana General Assembly adjourned? March 13.
Yeah, call me iPOPAdamus.