Payne’s decision to step down from child services demonstrated good judgment

(Lafayette) Journal and Courier

Spend a few days in juvenile court and you’ll hear just how complicated the lives are for families navigating their own personal problems, the system and the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Rarely is there an easy answer. Rarely does a case leave the courtroom with dry eyes.

The cases aren’t confined to those without means and position. People go to great lengths to do what they believe is right for children they love.

So it goes, apparently, for James Payne, who led the Department of Child Services from the time the agency was created in 2005 until his recent resignation.

A special report by Indianapolis Star reporter Tim Evans showed Payne dropping the front as DCS chief in favor of his role as a grandfather. In the process, Payne appeared to cross boundaries — not to mention the recommendations of his agency — to fight to keep the children in his and his wife’s home.

The case is tangled, as many that roll through DCS’ hands can be. But here’s how it breaks down, according to The Star report:

Payne’s son lost custody of his children to Payne’s daughter-in-law during a bad divorce. After an anonymous tip about suspected neglect by the mother, the children wound up in Payne’s home. After DCS recommended that the children be returned to the mother’s custody, Payne allegedly worked with his son’s lawyer. According to The Star report, Payne went as far as writing a legal brief that questioned his department’s decision.

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