Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Indiana Commission on Improving the Status of Children - Regular session 21 May 2014

Cross-System Youth task force

The Commission first heard from The Honourable Charles Pratt of the Allen County Superior Court and Don Travis, Deputy Director Juvenile Justice Initiatives & Support, Department of Child Services who presented information from the Cross-System Youth task force. Cross-System Youth are children who are likely to have dual contact with state agencies or courts be it contacts such as foster care and juvenile delinquency, or CHINS and school truancy. These youth are considered to be at-risk to 'cross over' from the child welfare system to delinquency which may be based upon something such as homeless status which is a factor that makes a child more likely to fall into the delinquency system or children with serious mental illness who are much more likely to cross-over. Judge Pratt discussed what he calls 'sector secrets' which was confirmed by a service provider survey. 48% of Respondents to that survey indicated that information sharing is restricted by false beliefs of laws restricting such sharing; 55% indicated personnel issues, while agency policies were cited by 38%

Committee members identified some of the barriers to servicing dual jurisdiction youth as follows;
~ Meaningful data is not available
~ Reciprocity in access to files. DCS may access juvenile justice files but the child's public defender may be barred from accessing the DCS files.
~ Foster children who have violated probation and are committed equate a change in placement.
~ Cross-training between providers for CHINS cases and juvenile justice cases needs to be provided.
~ There is a lack of collaborative procedures established within the various agencies

Issues with Cross-System Youth were identified as;
~ Meaningful data is not available
~ Poverty: many families fall into the “income gulf” which is the gap between qualifying for low cost or no cost services and the ability to pay for those services.
~ There is a lack of leadership/coordination between services providers.
~ There is no uniformity among consent/release forms across the various agencies.

Next steps will include;
~ compiling information and developing subcommittees
~ inviting local leaders to present their best practices
~ developing and sponsoring pilot programs in three counties to implement dual jurisdiction processes.

I presented to relevant members of the commission a proposal for a Child Custody Tracking Index which would help courts and agencies identify and have electronic access to all court cases involving a child. Currently court rules prohibit a judge from seeking out this information. A court is barred from considering evidence in a CHINS case involving a custodial parent unless the non-custodial parent seeking a modification is aware of the CHINS case and motions the court to consider the case. I do not feel that it is in the best interest of children to not provide a court with all relevant case information. The idea was well received by those to whom I presented.

Infant Mortality and Child Health task force

Some of the issues that are being addressed are;
~ providing prenatal care earlier in the pregnancy
~ reducing elective premature births
~ reducing spontaneous premature births

The current rate of infant mortality from 2011 data is that Indiana has 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births which ranks Indiana 48th. The national target is 6.0/1,000 which currently stands at 6.6/1,000.

Indiana smoking rate is sixth highest while obesity is eighth highest in the county. Both of these voluntary behavioural factors contribute to the risk of infant mortality. The Commission will be seeking ways to help Indiana parents decide not to place their unborn children at risk of death.

Meetings of the Commission are open to the public. The Commission welcomes suggestions and input from the public. If you have a suggestion, comment or question for the Commission or any member that you would like for me to present on your behalf just let me know.

Future meeting dates are
16 July 2014: Dynamics of Family Violence;
17 September 2014: [tentative] Children's Mental Health Initiative;
19 November 2014: TBA

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