Sometimes we see damage after it has been done by kids to public property, such as library grounds and city parks. Usually we do not see the damage as it is being done to children by their neglectful or abusive caretakers. The financial and aesthetic loss to public property upsets us. The financial and psychic loss resulting from child neglect and abuse dwarfs the related juvenile vandalism.
Napoleon’s soldiers used the Sphinx for target practice and the Taliban destroyed priceless religious icons. Vandalism is neither new nor novel. Neither is child abuse and neglect. They have both been with us since Eve stole that apple and Cain was not sufficiently supervised. However, since America has become entangled in the opioid crisis we have seen an exponential increase in juvenile misbehavior and damage to those juveniles from the adults who are entrusted with their care.
In 2012 the State of Indiana’s Department of Child Services removed 8,897 children from their families. Only 5 years later 16,834 children had to be removed for their own care and safety or to protect others. The national average of child removals is 5.5 per 1000. Indiana’s removal rate is 13 per 1000. Of course, these figures only include the children who come to the DCS’s attention. There is little doubt the real need for child protection is a great deal higher.
Our state-wide crisis in needed intervention and provision of services such as food, shelter, education, counseling, clothing and medical care is so dire the state DCS Director, former Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, just quit in despair in December, 2017. As she left she told Governor Eric Holcomb who had to appoint her replacement that Indiana’s policies in DCS matters, “…[A]ll but ensure children will die.”
In response the Governor has initiated a study to investigate the problems we face as a state in caring for our most vulnerable citizens. The Child Welfare Policy Practice Group, a non-profit agency located in Montgomery, Alabama, has been contracted to study Indiana’s problems and needs. Ms. Frieda Baker of that agency came by the Court last week to speak with me about our situation in Posey County.
I will bring you up-to-date in the next few weeks.