10/15/10 State Representative Nancy Dembowski (D-Knox) pledged Thursday that she intends to introduce legislation in the next session of the Indiana General Assembly that “would restore the screening of child abuse and neglect complaints to local teams of child services professionals, rather than have that done by a group in Indianapolis.”

 Dembowski made her comments after speaking with Starke County CASA director Ron Henigsmith who cited his concerns and those of other child advocates about the changes that have been made.  Dembowski, who served as Mayor of Knox before her election to the state legislature said that she was “very concerned that starting just about a month ago on September 1st, the process of screening out complaints is no longer occurring in local child abuse screen-out teams, but is going through the state’s new call center.”

 “We have seen just how badly the call centers functioned for food stamp and Medicaid eligibility under the Governor’s privatized system and how that had to be scrapped in favor of returning to face-to-face contact with local caseworkers.  I am equally concerned that while there is a toll-free hotline number for reporting abuse and neglect cases, not every one of those calls gets forwarded back to the counties for assessment or review.  For years, the procedure (see 2005 policy attached) has been that local ‘screen-out’ committees of trained, locally based professionals make recommendations on whether a given report has merit.”

“Since September 1st,” charged Dembowski, “the Indiana Department of Child Services is doing its own ‘screen-outs’ in Indianapolis and that means that some of those calls never reach the counties.  I think that’s a terrible idea as local law enforcement and social services professionals  know best.  I say let’s have enough faith in local child abuse prevention professionals to let them screen-out locally.”

Vowed Dembowski, “We will bring back the local screen-out committees if I have to do this by legislation.  I’m not going to permit an instance of child abuse or neglect to happen because a report doesn’t make it back to the local teams.”