Child abuse hotline criticized during hearing

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Hoosiers who testified before a legislative panel studying the state’s Department of Child Services say the agency puts keeping families together before the best interest of children.

Wednesday’s testimony focused on the state’s centralized child abuse hotline.

Donna Baxter of Schererville said she’s used the hotline to try to regain custody of her granddaughter after DCS returned the child to her drug-addicted mother and her abusive boyfriend. Baxter said as a newborn the girl was malnourished and tested positive for drugs and a sexually transmitted disease.

Democratic state Rep. Gail Riecken of Evansville says DCS should prioritize children’s well-being over family unification.

Concern about the hotline and how DCS responds to reports of child abuse have grown as child deaths around Indiana have been investigated by local media outlets.