More than 9,000 Indiana children, who under state law should have court-appointed advocates to oversee their abuse and neglect cases, are going unrepresented, reports the Indianapolis Star. Failure to provide advocates can result in those children receiving less personal attention and fewer services in the state’s care, while also delaying resolution of their cases. Those unrepresented children account for about half of the youths who should have advocates under the new law that took effect July 1.
The advocate requirement was included in sweeping changes made this year in the state’s child welfare system, but lawmakers did not provide money to pay for the advocates. Efforts to transform child protection in Indiana are intended to counter an increase in abuse and neglect cases, which are taking a toll on thousands of children and consuming millions of tax dollars. Officials responsible for administering advocacy programs say they don’t have enough money or staff to serve all children in cases in which child protection officials allege abuse and neglect or seek to terminate parental rights. Advocates are are supposed to push the system to do what is best for children, sometimes clashing with child protection officials and family members.