Friday, March 2, 2012

Indiana governor attacks Democrats, media, over criticism of child protection on his watch

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mitch Daniels on Friday rebuffed criticism of Indiana's child protection services during his watch, saying recent news reports that detailed cases of fatal child beatings obscured the great strides the state had made in protecting at-risk children and accusing rival Democrats of "grandstanding."

Daniels addressed hundreds of child protection workers in an attempt to boost morale following investigative reports by The Indianapolis Star and the South Bend Tribune. The papers detailed multiple cases where Hoosier children were beaten to death while reports to the state went unchecked, possibly because of high turnover at Indiana's new centralized abuse reporting hotline.

Daniels, a Republican, cited statistics and national awards showing that the state had improved drastically since 2005, including a 50 percent drop in reported deaths between 2005 and 2010. He accused the media of misrepresenting the issue.

"A lot of the people making those attacks have never walked up to the door of a house harboring those adults," Daniels told the audience.

House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer, of South Bend, and Democratic members of the House's family committee called a news conference last week and criticized child protection services based on the newspaper reports.

The House agreed Thursday to establish a legislative study committee to investigate the reports. Indiana senators, meanwhile, reached a separate agreement with DCS to have it submit a report to the Legislature's Health Finance Commission.

Daniels used the issue against Democrats in his first run for office much the same way they are using it against him now.

"I just think the protection of children ought to be singled out as a life-and-death matter where failure is not an option," Daniels told the Star in 2004 when he was running for governor against Democrat Joe Kernan.

Since then, Daniels has separated the child protection office from the massive state Family and Social Services Administration, establishing its own cabinet-level department. He also increased the number of caseworkers handling child abuse and neglect cases by 750 workers.


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