INDIANAPOLIS (July 20, 2012) – Since its statewide launch in Sept. 2010, the Indiana Department of Child Services centralized hotline has received more than 272,000 reports, resulting in more than 140,000 investigations into allegations of child abuse and neglect. Indiana’s hotline also is serving as a model for neighboring states, and follows a trend that more than 30 other states across the nation have adopted in efforts to protect children.
Prior to Indiana launching the hotline, reports of child abuse and neglect were directed to more than 300 different telephone numbers across 92 counties, with some calls rolling over to law enforcement offices, or being answered inadvertently by overnight cleaning staff. Call record keeping also differed from county to county, making it difficult to determine how many calls in total did not meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect.
“Today calls are answered consistently by 72 trained family case manager professionals all using a practice designed by experts to assess safety and risk,” said DCS Director James Payne. “And every call is recorded and accounted for, even if it doesn’t meet the definition of abuse or neglect.”
On average, Indiana is completing more than 12,000 additional assessments of child abuse and neglect than in the three years prior to the hotline launch.
Along with better quality control in handling calls received, those calls are being answered in less than three minutes, on average.
“We at PMCH are very appreciative of the hotline's attention to a quick response time when a child is in our emergency room or hospital,” said Sheila Day, child protection team coordinator with the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent’s. “I believe it has been an improvement as the questions are standardized and the same process is used to assess each concern regarding potential abuse or neglect.”
Day is one of hundreds of professionals that use the hotline in the course of their jobs every day. DCS records show that 55.35 percent of hotline reports come from professionals, such as school personnel, doctors, or law enforcement. Another 26 percent of reports come from community citizens. Indiana is a “mandatory reporting state,” which means all citizens are required by law to report suspicion of abuse and neglect.
Hotlines are a best-practice trend spreading across the country
Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia are just a sampling of states that have adopted centralized hotlines. Recently Oklahoma and Louisiana also launched their own centralized call systems.
Representatives from Arizona, Illinois, West Virginia, Iowa and Michigan child-protective agencies have explored Indiana’s hotline as an example of how to implement or improve their own operations in addressing reports of child abuse or neglect.
Illinois’ Department of Child and Family Services agency reports challenges with long wait times for calls coming into its hotline, and has reached out to learn from Indiana’s success in staffing its hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer law-enforcement calls in under two minutes, and general caller reports in under three minutes.
Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services reports that it instituted a centralized hotline to ensure more consistent practices for prioritizing calls and eliminating bias. Previously, county directors in Oklahoma made decisions on whether a further investigation or assessment was needed, which resulted in complaints about county officials making decisions based on personal relationships and personality conflicts.
Louisiana recently announced its newly launched hotline received 114,000 calls in its first year. Indiana received more than 150,000 reports to its hotline in 2011. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services agency said it instituted a hotline because like Indiana, Oklahoma and other states, it was looking for uniformity across a long list of parishes.
National experts in child-abuse prevention and child advocacy encourage centralized hotlines as a better approach to managing child-abuse reports. "Indiana's approach to its hotline was undertaken with a clear vision, and collaboration with experts in the area of child welfare operations," said Mark Ells, director of the Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center. "Because of that approach, Indiana has achieved an increase in the consistency of the receipt, intake, and screening of child abuse and neglect reports across the state that's resulted in approximately 30 percent more reports of child abuse and neglect than the former system delivered."
About Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS)
DCS is committed to protecting children who are victims of abuse or neglect. The agency’s primary goal is to safely keep these children at home with their families by offering appropriate support services. If safety continues to be a concern, children are placed with relatives or in foster care. DCS also oversees adoptions from the foster care system and manages the Child Support Bureau. The Kids First Trust Fund, supported by the sale of ‘Kids First’ specialty automobile license plates, subsidizes programs designed to prevent child abuse and neglect. Indiana Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline: 800.800.5556. www.in.gov/dcs.