The State of the Department of Children's Services has been a cause of major concern.
Last November, the Department of Children's Services, or DCS, responded to over 20,000 complaints statewide. In Allen County, over 1,000 complaints, and officials say the cases just keep piling on at the expense of child safety.
"I'll start right now, there is noone who cares more about children than I do. And I will do whatever is ncessary to ensure the success of our agency and it's mission." Governor Holcomb addressing the issues with DCS during his recent State of the State address. And people are hopeful, that with a renewed focus, the state's plan will help save children in danger.
"Underprivileged kids. I don't think at the current time the state is doing enough," Hoosier David Shuler said."
"That incident over ther at the fire department where that kid got abused. And then they took that kid up to the fire department and dropped him off. I mean, everyone heard about that, it was terrible," Hoosier Chris Cloward said.
That incident involved two year old Malakai Garrett. Back in November, Malakai died of severe injuries to his internal organs, and multiple blows consistent with being punched. Malakai's cousins take part in family marches to raise awareness. "So we can get justice for Malakai, and know what happened," Adalyn Adams Malakai's cousin said.
27 year old Mitch Vanryn has been charged with murder. And 26 year old Amber Garrett, Malakai's mother, faces feloney charges of child neglect. There were multiple DCS cases filed before Malakai's death.
"We have kids that are dying, or in harms way, and we need to do something about it. State Representative Phil GiaQuinta says legislators are pressing the Governor for answers. "We as legislators would like to see answers, sooner, rather than later. But we will take the Governor at his word that they are really going to dive into the issue and see what is going on."
But State Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane says there are countless problems facing the department. "Staffing levels were inadequate, that the budget funding was inadequate. That there are issues in regards to technology that's used by the department."
Mary Beth Bonaventura resigned from leading the DCS at the end of December and in her resignation letter said that a continuation of the state's policies would "All but ensure children will die."
Governor Holcomb has ordered a review of DCS and the report was just completed today. Holcomb will share the results with legislators in March. "This report will got a long way in not just assessing, in addressing some of those concerns, so we're spending our precious resources in the absolute right way."
Holcomb says he feels confident about Bonaventura's replacement and that they are ready to tackle the challenges facing Indiana's children. "Terry Stignon has not just the committment and the head and the heart for this service. But she has got the respect of folks all across the state of Indiana."
When it comes to children like two year old Malakai, everyone agrees the one thing the department doesn't have is time.
"We need to come up with solutions, and we need to do it quickly."
Not a lot of information has been released from today's report. What we do know, is that Indiana removes children from their homes and puts them in state's care at a rate that is double the national average. I repeatedly tried to contact our local DCS department, and my calls and messages were left unreturned.