House has adopted legislation strenthening local responses to child fatalities‏



INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House members today joined State Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville) in passing legislation that helps strengthen state and local responses to cases of child fatalities, abuse and neglect.

Senate Bill 125, co-sponsored by Riecken, is a key component in reforms that the Evansville lawmaker helped formulate during a study last summer of ways to improve how the state’s Department of Child Services (DCS) protects the interests of abused and neglected children.

“One of the key concerns we had last summer was the state’s failure to provide adequate protection for our children, particularly when the cases involve the death of a child,” Riecken said.

“It was the belief of many of us that we needed to redesign local fatality review committees that would be able to respond more immediately to a death, and have greater knowledge of local circumstances that will enable them to develop prevention strategies at the state level,” she continued.

These committees would include representatives from law enforcement, emergency medical services, local health care providers, and schools in the area.

“The local committee would review every incident if the death of a child is sudden, unexpected, or unexplained, if DCS officials determine that abuse or neglect resulted in the child’s death, or if the local coroner rules that the death is undetermined or the result of a homicide, suicide, or accident,” Riecken said.

Data from local committees would be reported to a Statewide Child Fatality Review Committee that also would make recommendations on initiatives that would help children be safe and prevent serious injuries or deaths.

“While most of the attention on this bill has focused rightly on the improved local responses to child fatalities, I must note that there are other provisions contained in Senate Bill 125 that take a long-range view of identifying the core problems that lead to abuse and neglect, and work to find solutions,” Riecken said.

In particular, the legislation creates a Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to work on these issues. The 18-member commission would include judges, lawmakers, the superintendent of public instruction, a representative of the governor, and officials with experience in youth services and mental health issues.

“In addition, I must note that this bill provides a needed opportunity for legislative oversight of DCS through a Child Services Oversight Committee that will review reports from the agency and its ombudsman, and make recommendations to improve the delivery of child protection services,” she noted.

“Senate Bill 125 is a perfect example of legislators from both sides of the aisle coming together out of a concern that the needs of abused and neglected children were not being handled by the very agency charged to protect them,” Riecken said. “This legislation helps protect Hoosier children, and I am pleased to be playing a role in achieving that very worthy goal.”

The measure now returns to the Indiana Senate for concurrence with changes made in the House.


As always, please contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns related to our state government. Here is how you can stay in touch: call my office toll-free at 1-800-382-9842; write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204; or email me at


State Representative Gail Riecken
Indiana House District 77