By Kendra Rhonemus
Former House Speaker John Gregg
- the Democrat running for governor - announced a plan Monday he said will make Indiana's children a priority and ensure sure they are raised in safe homes.
"I will embark on a public awareness campaign to locate more qualified adoptive parents," Gregg said. The goal, he said, will be "better informing the public that there are children available for adoption who desperately need homes."
Along with his adoption plan, Gregg wants children with metal health issues to gain more access to state services that will help prevent struggling families from separating. He also wants to create a state office of child advocacy.
"The welfare of our children comes first," Gregg said.
Gregg is running against Republican Mike Pence
, who has his own plan to help Hoosier families.
"As Mike laid out in his vision in early June, a Pence administration would place top priority on protecting the health and wellbeing of Hoosier families, especially children," said Pence spokesman Christy Denault
. "Mike will continue to build on that vision by rolling out specific policies on a regular basis all the way through September."
Lawmakers launched a study committee this summer to investigate complaints about the way the Indiana Department of Child Services
has been handling reports of child abuse. Democrats have complained that the agency has failed to appropriately follow up on those complaints.
Morgan County Judge Mathew Hanson recently told The Courier & Press in Evansville that, "it would seem DCS is simply waiting around until the child commits such egregious or dangerous acts that the [juvenile delinquency] system has no choice but to file charges against a child with a mental disease/defect. And then the DCS can simply ignore any pleas thereafter to aid such a child."
But Gov. Mitch Daniels has defended the agency's work and pointed to data that shows the number of child abuse and neglect deaths has been falling.
The General Assembly considered the issues earlier when it created the study committee. Lawmakers also passed a law requiring the Department of Child Services to do a background check before reuniting children with the parent or guardian they were taken away from.
It also allows those caring for children removed from their homes to receive pay according to those children's needs.
Kendra Rhonemus is a reporter for The Statehouse File, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.