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Statehouse Update: DCS understaffing and caseload management

The Department of Child Services (DCS) was established in January 2005 by an executive order of Governor Mitch Daniels to provide more direct attention and oversight in two critical areas: protection of children and child support enforcement.

That same year, the legislature approved funding for the new agency in the state’s budget and enacted best practices for caseload management of family case managers. Family case managers are tasked with investigating and serving abused and neglected children and their families.

A legislative working group determined that the Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) recommendations for caseload management would be adopted to ensure that every child and family in need of services is properly cared for. Those standards state that each case manager shall have no more than 12 active cases relating to initial assessments of child abuse and neglect cases, and 17 children monitored and supervised in ongoing cases. These caseload standards are commonly referred to as the 12/17 caseload standards. DCS has experienced staffing problems in the past and has had difficulty meeting these standards.

At a recent Budget Agency hearing, DCS officials stated that only 1 of the state’s 19 regions were currently in compliance with the state law mandating the 12/17 caseload standards. They went on to say that DCS would need an additional 77 family case managers across the state in order to meet the requirement. However, the agency did not request any additional funding to hire the case managers needed to be comply with the law, and instead suggested a study of the standards.

Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane wrote a letter to the governor raising concern with DCS’s refusal to meet standards enacted to protect children. Senator Lanane wrote a letter to DCS Director Bonaventura requesting more information regarding the agency’s 12/17 compliance in advance of their meeting to discuss issues surrounding DCS. The meeting is scheduled for December 16.

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Indiana counties’ compliance with the 12/17 caseload standards and how many family case managers are needed to meet the standards.

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1 in 6: Hoosier Hunger by the numbers

This week, Hoosiers will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving across the state. Unfortunately, a meal, let alone a Thanksgiving meal, is not always readily available to many Hoosiers. A new study by Feeding Indiana’s Hungry and Feeding America shows that 1 in 6 people, or an estimated 1.1 million people, in Indiana turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families.  Of the households served by Indiana’s food banks and programs, 43 percent include a child under 18 and 25 percent contain a senior aged 60 or over.

Nationally, Hunger in America 2014 found that more than 46.5 million people turn to agencies and programs of the Feeding America network of food banks every year.

Below is a breakdown that paints a picture of our state’s hunger struggle as it relates to a number of barriers for working families.

WIDESPREAD USE OF FOOD ASSISTANCE

  • Indiana’s food banks serve at least 1.1 million people annually, 33 percent of whom are children and 13 percent seniors.
  • Among all clients, 18 percent are black, 4 percent are Latino, and 71 percent are white.
  • 9 percent of adult clients are students.
  • 22 percent of households include someone who is a veteran or who has ever served in the military.
  • 69 percent of affiliated charitable agencies employ no paid staff/are operated exclusively by volunteers.

CLIENTS STRUGGLING WITH HEALTH ISSUES

  • 85 percent of households report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food because they could not afford healthier options.
  • 77 percent of households report having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care.
  • 34 percent of households include a member with diabetes.
  • 64 percent households have a member with high blood pressure.

MAKING TOUGH CHOICES AND TRADE-OFFS TO KEEP FOOD ON THE TABLE

Following are the choices client households reported making in the past 12 months:

  • 77 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities.
    • 39 percent of these households are making the choice every month.
  • 78 percent report making choices between paying for food and paying for transportation.
    • 44 percent of these households are making the choice every month.
  • 77 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for medicine/medical care.
    • 45 percent of these households are making the choice every month.
  • 63 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for housing.
    • 31 percent of these households are making the choice every month.
  • 40 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for education expenses.
    • 19 percent are making the choice every month.

60 percent of households reported using three or more coping strategies for getting enough food in the past 12 months.  The frequency of these strategies among all households include:

  • 62 percent report eating food past the expiration date;
  • 24 percent report growing food in a garden;
  • 43 percent report pawning or selling personal property;
  • 85 percent report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food;
  • 35 percent report watering down food or drinks;
  • 62 percent report receiving help from friends or family.

LOW WAGES, UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT DRIVING NEED

  • 21 percent of respondents have faced foreclosure or eviction in the past five years.
  • Among all households served by Indiana agencies and programs, 61 percent have at least one member who has been employed in the past year.
  • Among all households with an employed person, the person with the longest employment duration is more likely to be employed full-time (59 percent) than part-time (41 percent). In comparison, the national average shows the person with the longest employment duration to be part-time (57 percent) rather than full-time (43 percent).

To learn more about how you can help address the issue of hunger in our state and read the full Hunger in America 2014 report, visit feedingindianashungry.org.

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Organization Day kicks off 2015 legislative session

Organization Day, the first official day of the Indiana General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, was held on November 18. Traditionally held in mid-November, Organization Day provides an opportunity for new rules to be adopted and for legislators to make arrangements for the upcoming legislative session. The Indiana Senate and House of Representatives now stand in recess and will reconvene on January 6, 2014.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane laid out key issues for lawmakers to tackle during the 2015 session, including working to give Hoosier families a raise.

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Powers of Ten: The Existential Justification of the new Senate Democratic Caucus

By State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage)

Yes, for any of you nerds out there, it is a math joke. But that is appropriate, because this missive is about math.

It’s about the true math of Indiana’s demographics and the false math of the legislative district maps. In the two elections following the Republican-drawn maps, both the House and the Senate have lost seats. In the Senate, we Democrats are now down to 10 seats out of 50 – that is 20%. The House is not much better, in the area of 30%.

Late on Tuesday night, as the Republicans gleefully celebrated their victories, some were asking whether the Senate Dems are now irrelevant; do we really have anything to say to justify our existence in such a small minority?

So, I invite you to look at the other math. In the last Governor’s race, Mike Pence won his desk by a margin of about 49.6% to 46.4%. In other words, somewhere in Indiana, there is a near-half of the state who does not support the relatively far right-wing politics of this very red Statehouse.

Indiana’s non-right-wing, whether Dems or middle Republicans, have been packed into a few neat and tidy fairly safe seats. Those of us left standing should be grateful. Some of us have a 90% support base. But this leaves many other districts with Republican-safe majorities, while the other “just less than half” of the people have no voice.

Those 47% deserve representation. Ten voices. They have ten voices in the Indiana Senate. Not so many. And certainly not proportional to 46.4%. Not so many. But we are strong. Those of us left standing come now from those “safe” districts, and can afford to be strong and loud. That has now become our mission. But more than that, it is now our obligation. Nearly half of this state may find that their opinions and thoughts are not appropriately represented by those 40 red voices.

In January, we will soon find out just how far away these 40 red voices have moved from the mainstream. And when The Ten find that the 40 have moved just too far, those Ten Voices will be heard. We will speak loud, for we speak for many.

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Senate Democratic Caucus re-elects leadership team

Members of the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus have re-elected their team of legislative leaders for the upcoming 119th General Assembly.

During a Statehouse caucus held Wednesday, the Senate Democrats voted to re-elect State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) as Democratic Floor Leader and State Senator Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) as Assistant Democratic Floor Leader. Additionally, State Senator Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte) was re-elected Caucus Chairman.

According to Sen. Lanane, the caucus will continue their work towards advancing legislation to improve the status of Hoosier families.

“The caucus feels we have been successful in advancing our agenda and stating loyal opposition to proposals that we felt were not in the best interest of Hoosiers,” said Sen. Lanane. “Now, more than ever, we are motivated to work with the other side when appropriate and zealously debate when we disagree.”

Appointed to the Senate in 1997, and elected to a full term in 1998, Lanane was elected to serve as the Democratic Leader by the Senate Democrat Caucus in 2012. He served as Assistant Democratic Leader from 2008-2012. Sen. Lanane represents Indiana Senate District 25 which includes the cities of Muncie and Anderson as well as Union Township and part of Anderson Township in Madison County and Salem, Center, Monroe, Liberty and Perry townships in Delaware County.

Sen. Breaux was appointed to the State Senate in December of 2006 to fulfill the unexpired term of her mother, Billie Breaux, who was elected the Marion County Auditor. Sen. Breaux was elected Assistant Democratic Leader by the Senate Democratic Caucus in 2012. Sen. Breaux formerly served as Assistant Democratic Caucus Chair. She represents Indiana Senate District 34 which encompasses the near East side of Indianapolis including portions of Center, Washington, Lawrence, and Warren Townships.

Sen. Arnold was elected to fulfill the unexpired term for Senate District 8 in March 2007. He was then elected to a four-year term in 2008. In 2010 he was elected by the Senate Democratic Caucus to serve as Caucus Chair. He represents Senate District 8, which encompasses the majority of LaPorte County including the City of LaPorte and the eastern part of Michigan City. It also includes Western St. Joseph County and Davis, Oregon, Washington, Center and Jackson Townships in Starke County. Sen. Arnold retired as the LaPorte County Sheriff having served 36 years in law enforcement before joining the Senate.

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Lanane shocked, Pence refuses to seek federal preschool funds

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) released the following statement following reports of the governor’s last minute decision to forgo $80 million in funding towards early learning for Hoosier children.

“I am shocked by this decision. As a strong proponent of early childhood education and the bipartisan efforts, both private and public, to move Indiana ahead last session on this matter. The idea that we would, at this point, abruptly throw this opportunity away is hard to fathom.

“The Governor owes those of us who have labored hard to get our state on board and see the benefits of early childhood education more than just a statement. It seems imprudent that we reject $80 million because of fear of some speculative “pitfalls” and “unproven objectives” perceived attached to them. I fear this is a setback for the advancement of the welfare of the children of our state that we know will be improved by Indiana moving swiftly to implement early childhood education.

“It was assumed all along that obtaining these development grant dollars would be a real achievement for Indiana in moving early childhood education forward.  For the Governor to totally reverse course now calls for a complete explanation of why and exactly how he plans to replace such funding.”

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Final Reports from 2014 Indiana Interim Study Committees

Throughout the summer and fall when the Indiana General Assembly is not in session, lawmakers convene interim committees and commissions to conduct in-depth research and analysis on complex issues facing the state. The recommendations of the committees are likely to become bills when the next legislative session begins in January.  Below are the final recommendations from several interim study committees. This list will be updated as new recommendations are released.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Interim Study Committee on Education

This morning was the final meeting for the Interim Study Committee on Education. The legislators voted to approve their recommendations to the Indiana General Assembly for the 2015 session, adjourning after making final considerations.

Under IC 2-5-1.3-4, the committee was to (1) study the issue of student discipline and the suspension, expulsion, or exclusion of a student from school; (2) examine the issue relating to prekindergarten and early learning; and (3) examine the need for an Early College High School program.

Today’s meeting heard testimony from several witnesses on the need for an Early College High School program. Most testified of the advantages and positive outcomes that Early College High School programs bring to students in Hoosier school corporations who are already taking initiative on such programs.

After the September 16 and October 6 meetings, the committee recognized there is an issue with the reporting of discipline data and recommended additional reporting standards. The committee also recommended finding alternatives to expulsion and suspension for truancy.

While reviewing testimony on pre-kindergarten and early learning, the committee found that the Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) and Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) are adequately preparing to implement Indiana’s early learning pilot program.

More details of the committee findings and recommendations can be found on the Indiana General Assembly website. Continue reading

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LANANE: Indiana finally on the right side of history

INDIANAPOLIS—Today, the United States Supreme Court denied review of the 7th Circuit decision holding that Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.  This denial automatically lifts the stay on the 7th Circuit decision and has the effect of invalidating Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban, as a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) issued the following statement:

“At long last, Indiana is on the right side of history and able to more permanently ensure equal marriage for Hoosiers and their families.

“I am proud to have stood with my democratic colleagues in support of marriage equality and I extend my best wishes to those who will now be able to make the commitment denied to them for so long.

“It is now clear we should no longer pursue this ill-conceived idea of inserting prejudice into our constitution and concentrate on what Hoosiers expect from us; job creation, strengthening public education and the health and safety of our citizens.”

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Interim Committee on Environmental Affairs discusses recycling options

Last legislative session, the General Assembly passed a measure that sets a statewide goal for recycling municipal waste and requires Indiana recycling organizations to post periodic reports on their recycling efforts. The law sets in place a goal for Indiana to recycle at least 50 percent of its municipal waste, and defines municipal waste as any garbage, refuse, industrial restroom waste, office waste or another similar material.

In order to meet this statewide recycling goal, the Interim Committee of Environmental Affairs met on Thursday to discuss the various options and best practices that will reduce municipal waste and increase recycling services in local communities.

Community leaders from various nonprofits and businesses met at the Statehouse to discuss the best practices for paper, glass, aluminum, cardboard, compost, and manufacturing material recycling efforts. Industry leaders recommended policy proposals such as “Pay-as-you-Throw” and single-stream recycling in order to meet the demands of the recycling goal with limited fiscal responsibility to the consumer and taxpayer. Successful policies in states like Minnesota and Delaware were discussed as models for Indiana to follow, with education and outreach playing a pivotal role in each scenario.

PowerPoint presentations heard in the committee can be found below:

Continue reading

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EARLY VOTING IN PORTER, LAPORTE AND ST. JOSEPH COUNTIES

Early voting starts October 7, 2014 and runs through Monday, November 3, 2014 at NOON. Registered voters may vote in-person, or send an absentee ballot by mail.

When you arrive at an early voting location, you will be asked to complete an application to vote absentee. Any person casting a vote before Election Day is considered an absentee voter under Indiana law since your ballot won’t be counted until Election Day. After you present your ID and your application is approved, you will be handed a ballot to complete on site. You then seal your ballot in a security envelope and it is safely stored until it’s counted on Election Day.

PORTER COUNTY

Valparaiso

Porter County Government Center
155 Indiana Ave Ste. 105, Valparaiso IN 46383

Early Voting Hours:

Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm

Saturday, October 25 & November 1 only 8:30am to 3:30pm

Monday, November 3 from 8:30am to noon

Portage

North County Government Complex
3560 Willow Creek Rd. Portage, IN 46368

Early Voting Hours:

Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm

Saturday, October 25 & November 1 only 8:30am to 3:30pm

Monday, November 3 from 8:30am to noon

Chesterton

Chesterton Town Hall
790 Broadway – Rm. 107 Chesterton, IN 46304

Early Voting Hours:

Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm

Saturday, October 25 & November 1 only 8:30am to 3:30pm

Monday, November 3 from 8:30am to noon

For more information, go to the Porter County Elections Website. Continue reading