April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, promoting awareness of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect. The month is dedicated to educating the public, building community support and strengthening public awareness activities and programs.
Numerous organizations join together this month to spread the word on this serious issue and to encourage more people to join in the fight against child abuse. For more information on work being done across the country and how you might get involved, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway page.
Indiana Senate Democrats work especially hard on behalf of children and their safety. This legislative session, there were a number of initiatives proposed and approved by the General Assembly to strengthen child safety measures in the state. However, there is still much work to be done.
An amendment offered by Sen. Taylor to House Bill 1136 would have standardized basic health and safety requirements for all child care facilities in the state, including those privately run by a church or other organization, such as child care ministries. Language in the amendment would have required that all facilities comply with state standards in order to receive funding under the federal Child Care and Development Fund voucher program. The amendment, which gained some bi-partisan support was ultimately struck down largely along party lines.
Sen. Simpson introduced Senate Resolution 47 to study the wrap-around services provided by the Department of Child Services (DCS) to families who have children with serious emotional disturbances. Throughout the process, children are counseled within their family units to build relationships and keep family members together. Wrap-around services have been shown to reduce the recurrence of abuse and help families, through individualized care, keep multi-problem youth in their homes with families as opposed to an institutionalized setting.
The resolution included the study of how families are determined eligible for wrap-around services, the breadth of services available to families involved in DCS proceedings, the follow-up provided by staff to determine whether services were provided and the adequacy of those services, and the communication between family court and DCS to collaborate on families’ involvement in each entity.
Senate Bill 348, authored by Sen. Broden, would have required DCS to provide adoption subsidies for children with special needs whose adoptive parents are eligible to receive support from the adoption assistance account. This would have expanded current law, which allows adoption subsidy agreements only for children who are wards of DCS at the time the adoption petition is filed. Despite strong Democratic support, the bill did not move through the process for final approval.
The governor has signed into law Sen. Rogers’ SEA 267, also known as “Erin’s Law,” which will use educational resources to help inform students and protect them from sexual abuse. The new law will provide a platform to educate teachers and school personnel about how to identify and report suspected abuse of students, and also teach students how to respond in these types of situations. The Indiana Department of Education (DOE) will be required to work with the DCS and other organizations that specialize in child abuse to provide resources to help teachers and school personnel become better equipped to handle cases of child sexual abuse. The DOE will also be required to develop model education materials, response policies and reporting procedures for Indiana schools for grade two through grade five.
The legislature will take an in-depth look at DCS this summer during the interim study committee process. Senate Enrolled Act 286 passed the General Assembly with the intention to study the effects of recent changes to the department and the centralized 1-800 hotline out of Indianapolis which has drawn media attention over numerous constituent complaints.
For more information on Interim Study Committees click here. To contact your legislator with input on issues affecting child abuse prevention, call the Senate at 1.800.382.9467 or the House of Representatives at 1.800.382.9842.