By City County Observer StateHouse Editor, Gail Riecken
The Statehouse File report of the first meeting of the 2018 legislative session acknowledges Speaker Bosma endorsing the upcoming evaluation of DCS. However, one must question why the Speaker stated at that meeting the problems are not monetary. “I think it’s best for these experts to dive in, give some recommendations and then we can act on them,” Bosma said. “We added $600 million—well over half a billion dollars—to the DCS budget just this biennium. So it’s not a money issue.”
That singular statement ties the hands of the evaluation council company proposed by the Governor and now endorsed by the Speaker and damages the credibility of any final report.
Certainly the problems have been other than money, but many have been tied to money-including underpaid staff, underpaid residential facilities, lack of effective recruitment training-including training, lack of adequate funding for foster care, ongoing training and supervision of foster families and the children living there, all costing money.
These issues were continuously addressed with improvements by the recent director, former judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, when I was watching the DCS as a state representative, but that doesn’t mean the problems were solved.
There was a committee that was supposed to act as an independent committee to oversee the operation, the DCS Oversight Committee, but under the Republican leadership became a useless “reporting out” waste of time. This committee could have done its job, if the government, including the legislative majority party leadership, would have stopped worrying about public embarrassment and started thinking about how transparency can produce progress toward real success in protecting the health and welfare of our children.
Government officials, including the legislature should not hamper the investigation. Government should not limit the evaluation process. And, you and I need to know more about this company that is heading up the evaluation.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked an IndyStar reporter to investigate the company being hired to evaluate. I did not get a response. But we, the public, need to know the company’s credentials. What are the 20 states that they have serviced? What has been their experience? Who are the principles of the company and what is their background? And, now, I add why does the Speaker deny the money issue knowing it has been front burner for years and the recent director, Director Bonaventura, claims it remains an issue?