By James PolstonTheStatehouseFile.comINDIANAPOLIS — The head of Indiana’s Department of Child Services told a legislative panel that her agency is making progress to fix some of the problems at the troubled agency.Director Terry Stigdon told lawmakers on the Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary Wednesday that the department has added attorneys and supervisors and is in the process of figuring out pay raises for employees.Those were among the 20 recommendations the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group (CWG) gave DCS in a report that came out in June after a six-month examination of the department.In response to the report done by CWG, the department hired Todd Meyer as associate director to oversee the implementation of some of the recommendations from the report.Since Stigdon took over the department in January, it has hired a net gain of 44 supervisors and 30 attorneys and will continue to hire additional help. The current supervisor to family case manager ratio is one to seven and the department’s goal is to get the ratio down to one supervisor per five family case managers within 18 months.With the $25 million from the state’s surplus that Gov. Eric Holcomb allocated to DCS in June, Meyer says the department’s first plan is to support on-the-ground employees with salary raises, training and recognition. The next plan of attack will be to address a few of the CWG’s recommendations.Of the $25 million, Meyer says DCS will use $22 million to raise the salaries of DCS supervisors, family case managers and attorneys.Currently, the starting salary for family case managers is under $34,000 during training and under $36,000 after training. The starting salary for a DCS attorney is $52,000 and a number was not given for supervisors.Meyer also said they will announce the proposed raises soon but DCS plans to notify employees first.Stigdon and Meyer also talked to the committee about draft legislation to change parts of the law affecting the work of DCS.The draft proposed for the 2019 legislative session would allow older youth in foster care to receive services until age 21 rather than age 20 under current law.The second part of the preliminary draft would clarify descriptions of caseloads so family case managers and supervisors aren’t handling too many active cases. Stigdon explained that under the proposed change, if siblings are out of a home they would be counted as individual children but if the siblings are in a home together, they would be counted as a family and not individual children.State Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, who sits on the interim committee, mentioned her three-year stint as a family case manager. She told DCS that she knows from experience that caseload and understaffing is an issue.“I had, at one time, 49 ongoing cases and 60 investigations,” Houchin said. “So, I do appreciate the additional staff that were brought on during the Daniels administration and then also an emphasis on not overworking your case managers — that’s just too much to handle.”The final part of the draft would require the department to initiate an assessment not later than 24 hours after receiving a report of child abuse or neglect if the department believes the child is in immediate danger of serious bodily harm.Under current law, the department has no later than one hour to initiate an assessment.Houchin raised concern of the proposed 24-hour initial response time for the family case managers.“My concern is that if you give 2,100 people the opportunity to decide whether they go immediately or within 24 hours, that’s 2,100 opportunities for a child to die,” Houchin said. She said the 24-hour window is a recipe for disaster.The next meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary is Sept. 19 and the committee chair, state Rep. Gregory Steuerwald, R-Avon, wants DCS to come to the meeting with recommendations for the response time for initial assessments.James Polston is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmail
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice at press conference announcing arrest of 17 men in scrap metal scam.More than a dozen Long Island Rail Road employees were arrested after a grand jury indicted the group for a three-year scrap metal theft scheme that netted more than a quarter of a million dollars.The indictment charging the 15 LIRR employees and two other men was unsealed Friday in Nassau County court where the men were split into two groups during their arraignments. Prosecutors alleged the men stole more than $253,694 worth of copper from the railroad, sold it to Two Brother’s Scrap Metal in Farmingdale and pocketed the cash.“At a time when riders throughout Nassau County struggle with economic hardship and the disruptions that are caused by natural disasters unparalleled in most of our lives, it is outrageous that these public employees neglected their jobs, stole from us all,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said a press conference.The employees, including two assistant foreman, worked in the railroad’s communications department where they maintain railroad yard signal equipment, officials said. The two other men were described as acquaintances. The alleged scrap metal scheme occurred between Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 10 of this year.The schemers were hit with varying charges of conspiracy, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and thefts of services. Officials with the Metropolitan Transit Authority only became aware of the copper theft when a tipster contacted them last June.The MTA Inspector General’s office and the LIRR alerted the district attorney’s office soon after, sparking a high-tech investigation that included GPS monitoring, license plate reading technology and on-the-ground surveillance documenting the alleged scheme.The workers, sometimes while on duty, would allegedly steal new and used copper wire stored in four different railroad yards and use LIRR trucks to transport the valuable metal to a covert location, and then use their personal vehicles to drop it off at the scrapyard, effectively stealing from the public, officials said.17 men nabbed in LIRR scrap metal scheme.“This behavior will not be tolerated at a taxpayer supported agency like the Long Island Rail Road,” LIRR President Helena Williams said. But she lamented how the scheme happened right under the railroad’s nose, saying, “It is a sad day for the Long Island Rail Road.”“I have to rely on my employees,” she added. “And when we have employees stealing from the company, and we have employees violating that public trust, it is a very very sad day for our company.”The LIRR has been marred in controversy recently. Just last year, the railroad was embarrassed by a pension scam that included hundreds of employees faking injuries and illnesses to scam their way to early pensions.MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger said he wouldn’t “characterize it as a culture of theft,” in the LIRR, but said there needs to be an examination of the railroad’s “apparent lack of effective supervision…as well as the evident vulnerabilities of inventory controls.”The railroad acted quickly to the arrests, announcing that they will try to fire all those involved and would move to terminate their pensions, Williams said.And in response to the scheme, which Kluger noted was “obviously too easy” to get away with, the LIRR will increase security at its 12 scrap metal yards by securing bins, increase surveillance, restrict employee parking and continue to track vehicles through GPS.“There was a level of trust and honesty,” Williams lamented. “It is now proved to be me I cannot have that level of trust and honesty.”The workers tenure at the railroad ranged from 6 to 27 years, officials said. Their base salary was between $65,000 and $85,000.
Lipscomb looks to extend streak vs Kennesaw St. ___For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25___This was generated by Automated Insights, http://www.automatedinsights.com/ap, using data from STATS LLC, https://www.stats.com February 6, 2020 Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditLipscomb (8-14, 3-6) vs. Kennesaw State (1-21, 0-9)KSU Convocation Center, Kennesaw, Georgia; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ESTBOTTOM LINE: Lipscomb looks for its ninth straight win in the head-to-head series over Kennesaw State. Lipscomb has won by an average of 14 points in its last eight wins over the Owls. Kennesaw State’s last win in the series came on Feb. 25, 2016, a 73-57 win. Associated Press FABULOUS FRESHMEN: Lipscomb’s Ahsan Asadullah, Michael Buckland and KJ Johnson have collectively accounted for 52 percent of the team’s scoring this season, including 73 percent of all Bisons points over the last five games.CREATING OFFENSE: Asadullah has had his hand in 53 percent of all Lipscomb field goals over the last three games. Asadullah has 24 field goals and 18 assists in those games.SLIPPING AT 75: Lipscomb is 0-8 when it allows at least 75 points and 8-6 when it holds opponents to less than 75.COMING UP SHORT: Lipscomb has dropped its last three road games, scoring 59.3 points and allowing 70 points during those contests. Kennesaw State has lost its last five home games, scoring an average of 60.6 points while giving up 75.4.DID YOU KNOW: Lipscomb is ranked second among Atlantic Sun teams with an average of 70.5 points per game. The Bisons have averaged 74.3 points per game over their last three games.