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Rush: Courts Can Help Reform DCS

But high court caseloads cited in independent report aren't something judges can fix themselves

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Indiana's chief justice says judges are eager to help make the state's child-welfare agency more effective.

Governor Holcomb says he'll be asking Justice Loretta Rush to help carry out the recommendations of an independent review of the Department of Child Services. Rush is already the leader of a national effort by judges to use the bench to fight drug addiction, which is a factor in more than half Indiana's child-welfare cases. The judges have been seeking ways to wield their judicial power to get people into treatment, and to help lead community discussions on other solutions. Rush echoes the report's authors in saying child-welfare issues are easier to resolve before they arise.

The review found Indiana sends an "exceptionally high" rate of child-welfare cases to court, pointing to those cases as a factor in caseworkers' crushing workloads. Rush says she doesn't know whether those numbers are too high, but notes the judges don't get to choose what cases get filed.

The report finds poor relations between DCS and some local judges. Rush says she believes those tensions are rare. The report says high turnover among DCS caseworkers can lead to cases making their way through multiple caseworkers, with judges becoming frustrated with newly-assigned caseworkers who aren't yet up to speed.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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