Child abuse too serious an issue to use for political gain

The Indianapolis Star

The long-term mission to better protect children in Indiana from abuse and neglect is in danger of becoming just another political argument that divides Hoosiers along partisan lines.

It’s crucial for the sake of thousands of vulnerable children in our state that such an outcome isn’t allowed to occur.

Democrats, from gubernatorial candidate John Gregg to contenders for legislative seats, have tried to turn the perceived failures of the Department of Child Services into a campaign issue used to discredit Republicans.

Although ideas for improving DCS certainly would be a welcome part of the political dialogue, most of the rhetoric to date hasn’t gone beyond sound bite-style barbs. Much of the criticism also ignores recent history.

In 2004, Indiana suffered under one of the worst child protection systems in the nation. Case managers carried workloads that far exceeded national recommendations. Training was haphazard and, for some caseworkers, nonexistent. The annual turnover rate among child abuse investigators was 39 percent. The official number of child deaths from abuse and neglect in Indiana that year was 56, but an Indianapolis Star investigation in 2005 revealed that 66 children — a record number — had actually died. The investigation also found that the state had under-reported deaths for several years in part because Indiana lacked a consistent standard for tracking abuse and neglect among its 92 counties.

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