A legislative study committee set to take testimony Monday on Department of Child Services policies opened with an announcement that the agency's director had just resigned.
Although Director James Payne said in a letter Monday to Gov. Mitch Daniels that he was resigning to avoid more public scrutiny over his involvement in a family custody dispute and distract from other DCS issues, Payne's name was raised repeatedly in the testimony that followed.
* DCS streamlined how reports of child abuse and neglect were made, centralizing what had been separate call centers in 92 counties into one, consistently operated hot line in Indianapolis.
* The agency renewed its emphasis on keeping children at home whenever possible or, if foster care, relative care or residential care is necessary, reunification of children and parents as a top priority.
* At the same time, DCS also centralized contracting with and setting rates for outside providers, taking those decisions out of the hands of local judges and DCS offices.
A report in the Indianapolis Star on Sunday outlined allegations that Payne, among other things, involved himself inappropriately with his son's Hamilton County custody case and went so far as to criticize how his own agency reunified his grand- children with their mother.
In an earlier scheduled meeting Monday morning at The Tribune, Democratic governor candidate John Gregg called on the governor to ask for Payne's resignation.
"There have been problems with this agency all along," Gregg said, citing such issues as Payne returning millions of dollars to state coffers while cutting money to foster and adoptive parents and for treatment programs.
Republican candidate Mike Pence told the Star he had no comment on Payne's case.
But Daniels defended his appointee in a statement Monday as he accepted Payne's resignation and appointed Chief of Staff John Ryan to temporarily take over.
"I respect his view that his family be spared further harsh criticism, and that a difficult personal dispute, not of his own making, could be misused by those with political or special interest agendas to falsely disparage the excellent work he and his DCS co-workers have done over the last eight years," Daniels said. "Attacks on his record have ranged from innocently ignorant to despicably political and self-interested."
Agencies describe unilateral decisions
The DCS study committee had devoted much of Monday's agenda to issues of providers in the child protection system.
Leaders of several such agencies around the state discussed DCS' massive rate cuts this year and last, protesting their lack of input into the process and the probability that more programs will be forced to close by 2013.
The controversy over provider cuts is one of many DCS issues outlined in a Tribune series earlier this year, "For the Love of Children."
Candy Yoder, president and CEO of Child and Parent Services of Elkhart, told the committee that after her agency was forced into massive cuts, she had to make decisions on what services to curtail. She tried to contact a local DCS director, she said, to ask what services were the most important for CAPS to provide.
"There was a gag order," Yoder told the committee, saying she was told she could not have a conversation with DCS.
Two years ago, rates were cut 16 percent, she said. This past year brought a 43 percent additional reduction - meaning CAPS is no longer conducting many necessary parental and psychosexual assessments as part of its work with troubled children.
Payne resigns DCS post
Committee hears testimony on his policies
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