The Indiana Public Defender Commission wants money for a pilot project that could help change the way parents are defended in court in Department of Child Services cases.
Public defenders often represent parents in DCS court cases. The proposed pilot project would pair those public defenders with social workers. Public Defender Commission senior staff attorney Derrick Mason says those social workers can help both parents – who often don’t trust DCS social workers – and the public defenders.
“Gives the lawyers more knowledge about what services might be alternative to what is being recommended, something their client would be willing to do, to present that to the judge," Mason says. "Lawyers do not have any of this sort of training.”
Mason says other states that used this model reunited more children with their parents.
“If we just returned 10 percent of those children home sooner on a yearly basis, you could be saving around $12 million a year,” Mason says.
Mason says the commission is exploring a variety of funding sources for the pilot.