The Journal Gazette
Monday, July 01, 2019 12:03 pm

DCS responds to civil-rights lawsuit

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette


INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Department of Child Services fired back Monday after nine foster children filed a class-action suit last week alleging agency conditions that violate their civil rights.

Two of the children are from Allen County, and several of the plaintiffs have been in 10 or more foster homes through the years.

DCS Director Terry Stigdon spoke in a video posted online that is more than 7 minutes long.

“It is easy to cherry-pick our most challenging cases to support a narrative suggesting this is every child's experience, when in reality the average number of homes a foster child lives in while in DCS care is two,” she said. “And we will continue to work toward permanency for every child.”

Stigdon also said the timing of the filing is puzzling considering the significant strides the agency has made in the last year.

“Put frankly, DCS is simply not the agency it used to be. And continuing to rely on an outdated inflammatory account is misleading and harmful to children and their families,” she said.

The lawsuit alleges that Indiana's Department of Child Services is failing in its duty to protect the 22,000 children with open child welfare cases, including the 14,300 of these children who are in out-of-home care.

“Indiana removes children from their homes and places them into foster care at a staggering rate -- more than double the national rate. While children are in DCS custody, Indiana fails to keep them safe, often placing them in inappropriate, unstable, or overly restrictive placements; fails to provide necessary support services and medical and mental health care; and fails to provide meaningful case management,” the court filing said.

Three organizations brought the suit on behalf of the children -- A Better Childhood, a national advocacy group for children; Indiana Disability Rights, an organization that protects and promotes the rights of individuals with disabilities through empowerment and advocacy; and Kirkland & Ellis, a global law firm.

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