SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Democratic legislators in Indiana are working to make changes to the Department of Child Services after a new state report shows a jump in the number of complaints and failed investigations.
New numbers, just released, show that in the year since the calls where directed to the new centralized hotline rather than local agencies, the percentage of calls not being investigated went up from 16 to 40 percent.
Which begs the question, is DCS really handing child abuse cases properly and could some of the tragic deaths, like that of 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis', have been prevented.
According to the 2011 state report released by the Ombudsman Bureau, over half of the complaints made about the agency concerned either the DCS case plan, its findings or child safety. All are areas that put into question whether the department mishandled certain cases.
Indiana house democratic leader, Patrick Bauer, says after seeing the reports' findings, child protection services in Indiana needs transparency, accountability and direct intervention.
"We are suppose to address emergencies in the short session and there's no greater emergency that saving the lives of innocent children," says Bauer.
That is why house democrats have proposed that there be an independent audit of DCS to better monitor and fix what some legislators are calling a failing system, but attempts to push the proposals failed on Thursday.
"It was over a bill that we thought there ought to be an intensive study about all the questions you just asked," says Bauer.
The questions came up after ABC 57 News poured through several pages of a state report that outlined the nature of the complaints made about child services.
Six Indiana children died last year, one of them 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis from South Bend, who prosecutors say was beaten to death by his father Terry Sturgis.
In all of the cases, concerns of child abuse were reported to child services. In some of those cases, including the Sturgis case, no problems were found and the cases were eventually closed. "All this is alarming, the number of children that have been murdered and the number of quick dismissal of complaints," says Bauer.
Bauer wants to know how these case workers missed the writing on the wall and if they are actually following the proper procedures and polices.
"We need that transparency over every thing that is done and there ought to be a record of it," says Bauer. Transparency that will come too late for little Tramelle Sturgis.
On Monday, Bauer and other house committee members with meet again, where a second reading on the proposed amendments will be discussed.