How Indiana is Treating Children

State Commission To Hold Public Forums on How Indiana Children Are Treated

Are young people treated differently in Indiana depending on the color of their skin?

That will be the central question for the Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services when it holds its first in a series of public forums in Indianapolis later this month.

Indiana University School of Social Work Dean Michael Patchner and Angela Green, Deputy Director of Practice Support for the Indiana Department of Child Services are co-chairs of the commission.

Concerns about how youth receive services led the Indiana General Assembly to create the commission last year. The House, Senate and

Governor’s office each made appointments to the commission, which began meeting in January.

The job of the commission is to develop and provide an implementation plan to evaluate and address disproportionate representation of youth of color in the use of youth services in juvenile justice, child welfare, education and mental health services.

Disproportionality is a term that refers to the difference in the percentage of a certain racial group or ethnic group in the general population compared to the percentage of that same group receiving various services.

Why is this important? Because if a hallmark of a state is how it treats its children, then Indiana falls short of the mark.

Take the area of juvenile justice as an example. Of all juvenile arrests for violent crimes, 55 percent involved Caucasian youth and 42 percent involved African-American youth. Following arrest, however, African-American children are detained eight times more often than their white counterparts.

Disproportionality could be present in the under-representation of children of color as well, such as the number of children of color receiving mental health services.

The commission is to submit a report of its findings and an action plan to the legislature and governor in October. But before the commission settles on its recommendations, it wants to hear from the general public how they think their children have been treated.

The first public hearing will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 20th at Ivy Tech Community College, 50 West Fall Creek Parkway, North Drive, in Indianapolis. The forum will be held in the Fourth Floor Auditorium at the North Meridian Center Building. Parking lots are located on the northside of the building.

For those unable to attend the May 20th public forum, the session will be broadcast live on the Web. For information on how to watch the broadcast, go to the commission’s website at http://socialwork.iu.edu/site/indexer/1598/content.htm. The broadcast also will be posted on the website after the event. Five other public forums will be held by the end of June. The date, time and locations are as follows:

• May 28th, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Ivy Tech Community College Alumni Hall, 1815 E. Morgan St., Kokomo, Ind.

• June 3rd, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Ivy Tech Community College Auditorium, 3800 North Anthony Blvd., Fort Wayne, Ind.

• June 11th, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Indiana University Southeast, Hoosier Room East, 4201 Grant Line Road, New Albany, Ind.

• June 19th, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Ivy Tech Community College Multi-purpose Room, 1440 East 35th Ave., Gary, Ind.

• June 24th, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ivy Tech Community College, 3501 First Ave., Evansville, Ind.

• Aug. 27 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., an interactive statewide teleconference will be held in the same cities as listed above, although exact locations are still being worked out, to discuss the draft of the recommendations to be included in the commission’s October report. For more details about the commission, its members and its work, go to the commission’s website at http://socialwork.iu.edu/indexer/1598/content.htm. For questions, please contact Rob Schneider, Indiana University School of Social Work at 317-278-0303 or at robschn@iupui.edu.