INDIANAPOLIS – Six months. It’s how much time Governor Holcomb has had to develop a comprehensive plan to rescue the Department of Child Services after his hand-picked director warned his administration’s policies all but ensure children will die. On Monday, a third-party review will likely confirm the worst-kept secret in state government: DCS is mired in crisis. The question now becomes will Holcomb finally step up, lead and take immediate action?
To date, the governor has used the third-party review of his embattled agency as a tactical excuse. Wait for the results, the line goes. But you’d have to bury your head in the sand to miss the alarm bells. Since Bonaventura’s warning, DCS failures contributed to the tragic deaths of children in Anderson and Indianapolis. The Madison County Prosecutor, a Republican, said DCS, “failed miserably” and that “children keep dying. This needs to stop.” The watchdog agency tasked with monitoring the Department reprimanded it for failing “to follow laws.” And the software used by the agency is so dangerously antiquated, officials knock on wood to ensure proper operation.
Indiana has half the population but twice the number of children in child welfare than Illinois. Holcomb opted to forgo action during the legislative session, and months later, DCS has busted its budget by more than $125 million and counting. Inaction is costing taxpayers. Why is Holcomb so allergic to action? He’s proven willing to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for a special session to clean up a legislative embarrassment created by squabbling among his own party.
If political infighting rose to the level of calling a special session, certainly reform to prevent further tragedy at DCS does? Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody blasted the governor’s strategic delay and questioned whether Holcomb grasped the responsibility of the governor’s office.
“Leaders don’t run from crises, they confront them head on,” said Zody. “To date, Governor Holcomb has looked timid and like a politician more concerned with protecting his career than the lives of vulnerable children. The crisis at DCS demands more than a caretaker governor. Holcomb has had six months to formulate a rescue. Lives are at stake. If on Monday we get a plan that is more excuses than bold action, I won’t be the only person asking if the governor is in over his head.”