Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Indiana Department of Child Services Unveils More Cuts To Abuse Prevention

I’ve written repeatedly about how the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) held back its FY 2008 child fatality task force report for nearly two years.

When DCS released it, it revealed the number of child fatalities increased by 10, from 36 to 46 over the prior reported year, which Governor Daniels touted during his campaign. (We still don’t have a report for FY 2009, though it ended in July of last year, and I anticipate it will have at least as many fatalities as the 2008 report).

I hypothesized that the reason for DCS' evasion was because they knew that if lamakers saw the increase in child deaths, they might want to stop any agency cuts to abuse prevention services. For this reason, I said you shouldn't expect the report to materialize until after the legislative session ended.

As regular readers know, I was right. Even though, by DCS’ own admission the report was "published" in January, it wasn’t released until April 1, 2010. The General Assembly adjourned on March 13.

Well, guess what? The Evansville Courier & Press reports today:

The state is further cutting the budget of a successful program that provides counseling to families at risk of child abuse and neglect, leaving it with about a third less of the annual funding that it received just a few months ago.

Funding for the Healthy Families program, slashed from $42 million to $35 million earlier this year, will drop to $27.9 million for federal fiscal year 2011 that begins October 1 and to $24.7 million in 2012, Director Jim Payne of the Department of Child Services told program managers Monday.

Does anybody think legislators at the Indiana General Assembly would have let the first cut go, let alone the additional reduction, if they had known the real number of child abuse and neglect fatalities in Indiana?

In my opinion, putting the stats in a hole for budget protectionism is the most inexcusable act of Director Payne’s tenure.

Well, except for the cuts themselves. When we get the FY 2010 numbers in 2012, you'll see I was right. Actually, make that 2013. You might not get any more child fatality numbers until Governor Daniels is secure in his next job.


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