Indiana spent $1.3M on child welfare studies that weren’t acted on

Five reviews of the Indiana Department of Child Services cost more than $1.3 million but yielded no state action to address the troubled agency's increasing caseloads.

The existence of the studies conducted from 2013-2017 only became known when the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group released its report last month, the Journal Gazette reported. The studies had similar analyses on training, organizational support and removing children from homes too quickly, according to the consultant hired by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

"In five years, external evaluators have prepared five evaluation reports about DCS," the latest report stated. "A large number of these recommendations have not yet been implemented."

The reviews prompted Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma to say he was "disturbed" by the state's inaction.

But the older studies weren't publicized, with lawmakers expressing shock at the existence.

"I find it kind of disingenuous that those reports were being compiled, and the legislative branch of government knew nothing about them and we fund their budget," said Democratic Rep. Greg Porter, a member of the State Budget Committee. "That's a lot of money for some reports that yielded no return."

The agency's long-festering problems attracted attention in December when DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura resigned, saying cost-saving attempts by Holcomb's administration would "all but ensure children will die."

All five evaluations came under Bonaventura's tenure, four of which were when Vice President Mike Pence was governor and one under Holcomb. Bonaventura didn't return messages seeking comment.

The reports were conducted by Indiana University; Casey Family Foundation, which focuses on foster care; consulting firm Deloitte; the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute; and management consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal.

Holcomb pledged action in June after a state-commissioned report by the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group found that dysfunction, a perceived lack of resources and a "culture of fear" contributed to widespread problems at the embattled agency.

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