Salt & Light: A Guide to Loving Northwest Indiana

Page 40



The Indiana Department of Child Services (IDCS) is charged by statute to protect children in the State of 0UKPHUH ;OLYL PZ HU 0+*: VMÄJL PU each of Indiana’s ninety-two counties. IDCS Family Case Managers (FCMs) are available to respond to allegations of child abuse and neglect twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three O\UKYLK ZP_[` Ä]L KH`Z H `LHY -*4Z also manage open cases for over two thousand children in Lake County alone who are victims of child abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, there continues to be a high number of victims 7OV[V I` 1HJX\L 4PSSLY

of child abuse and neglect in the Lake County community. *OPSK HI\ZL PU 0UKPHUH PZ KLÄULK PU chapter 31 of the Indiana Code as existing when a child is in need of services (such a child is referred to as a CHINS). The most basic interpretation of the statute is that a child is a CHINS when a parent, guardian, or custodian is unable or unwilling to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or age-appropriate supervision. In addition, when a child’s physical or mental health is seriously endangered, that constitutes child abuse as well. The budget for services for neglected and abused children and their families in Lake County Indiana was over $78 million in 2011. This money does not cover administrative costs such as staff ZHSHYPLZ VY [OL VMÄJL I\PSKPUN" [OL million is solely for services to help abused and neglected children and their families.

The mission of IDCS is to help children thrive in safe, caring, supportive families and communities.

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Child-welfare workers are trained [V PKLU[PM` ZWLJPĂ„J MHJ[VYZ [V KL[LY-

mine the current safety of a child and the risk of future harm. As a group, FCMs in Lake County are assigned investigations (called assessments) of child abuse for 350 to 400 families each month. Allegations are called in to the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-800-5556) by citizens and are electronically transferred to local case managers. The assessment determines whether each allegation is substantiated physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. If the allegation proves unfounded, the assessment is classiÄLK HZ \UZ\IZ[HU[PH[LK :\IZ[HU[PH[LK assessments become new cases when */05: WL[P[PVUZ HYL ÄSLK ^P[O [OL Lake County Superior Court, Juvenile Division. The number of children under the jurisdiction of the court and managed by the Lake County FCMs varies from day to day, but it is usually around two thousand. Children who are taken into protective custody are returned to their parents about 80 percent of the time, generally after the parent receives remediation services and it is safe for the child to be in the parent’s care.1 6[OLY JHZLZ