Indiana DCS requesting additional $286 million for next fiscal year

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana's Department of Child Services made its case before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday regarding a request for an additional $286 million for the next fiscal year.

That would mean nearly $1 billion total from the state's general fund. The department’s new director, Terry Stigdon, spoke before lawmakers and shared why she felt they need the extra cash.

"It's been extremely eye-opening," said Stigdon.

It's been about a year since Stigdon became the new director of the Indiana Department of Child Services. She stepped in when the agency was struggling with a shortage of caseworkers, complaints of neglected cases and spending way over budget months before the fiscal year ended.

"It was because of the sharp rapid rise of the children in care," she said.

Now, DCS is requesting lawmakers to allocate an additional $286 million to them. Stigdon hopes it will bring their budget in line with actual spending.

"We will continue providing services for families," she said. "We will continue taking care of our workforce to make sure they are compensated appropriately."

Some state senators had questions about how the money is being used.

"It does not seem to me they can really explain. Where all of this money is going?" asked State Sen. Karen Tallian (D).

After the hearing, Tallian still has concerns. The plan has already passed the House, with the full amount included.

"The administration is working very closely with DCS to try to get their spending more in line with our surrounding states. It’s a work in progress," said State Rep. Brian Bosma, Speaker of the House.

As lawmakers make their decisions, Stigdon said she's focused on improving retention rates of employees and providing services to kids in need. She feels this money will help the agency do that.

"That will help us keep moving so we have things in place to provide for child safety," she said.

The state budget passed the House along party lines. It will now be kicked over to the full Senate for a vote.

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