Changes On The Horizon For Abuse And Neglect Watchdog Agency

August 26, 2013 Updated Aug 26, 2013 at 5:21 PM EDT

INDIANA (www.incnow.tv) --- Taking a new approach in dealing with an exploding problem in Indiana, child abuse and neglect cases.

State leaders want to return more power to the hands of local workers in investigating complaints.

The plan is to put into effect a pretty big change within the Department of Child Services, opting for a more de-centralized power structure.

Abuse and neglect cases around Indiana are commonplace.

Christa Shaffer-Schuchman of Fort Wayne pleaded guilty last week to felony child neglect charges, after admitting that she failed to report issues with her live-in boyfriend Jason Morlan.

Prosecutors say Morlan whipped Schuchman’s young daughters with a belt, repeatedly kicked one of the girls in the genitals, and rammed the other girl’s head into a wall.

Lee Rager and Diana Haley of Allen County are also in hot water, after teachers and staff members at two schools reported abuse of a boy under their care to the Department of Child Services.

Right now, all complaints are handled through a hotline in Indianapolis.

But plans call for the opening of four regional offices around the state, including one in Blackford County, to more effectively screen which cases can be dropped and which ones need a detailed assessment.

Governor Mike Pence's administration is adding $70-million over two years to the DCS budget, to try and take pressure off staff that struggles with "burn out".

" We read one article and we're just heartbroken. These people have to deal with (these cases) all the time. Our effort was to increase the number of specialists to help the workload, we've increased the pay,” said State Representative Rebecca Kubacki from Kosciusko County, who chairs a legislative committee that is addressing the subject.

There’s a proposal to offer new incentive pay raises to staff, in an effort to try and convince more DCS workers to stay with the agency longer.

Job turnover is a big problem, in part because of the stress associated with working on heart wrenching cases.

Three of the four regional hotline offices could be up and running before the end of the year.

One in Vanderburgh County in southwest Indiana is expected to be the last to come on line.

A meeting scheduled for October 23rd could provide more answers about progress toward implementation of the new system.

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