LAFAYETTE – By all accounts, it was just a normal day Wednesday in the fourth-floor courtroom of Tippecanoe Superior 3, where the county’s child neglect cases are heard.
Sixty miles to the south, Indiana House and Senate leaders were gaveling in the 2018 General Assembly session Wednesday afternoon with a vow that they weren’t going to get caught up this session with a crisis brewing in Indiana’s child neglect and welfare system.
What they’d read and heard since the December resignation letter from Mary Beth Bonaventura surfaced – specifically the former Department of Child Services director’s claim that cuts under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration “all but ensure children will die” – wasn’t enough for the legislature to jump in right away.
Or, maybe it was too big for one 10-week legislative session.
“The same stories that we all heard from case workers in the past, I’m still hearing,” Sen. David Long, the Senate president, said. “It’s not Gov. Holcomb’s fault – it’s a systemic issue.”
Business as usual, in other words.
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About the same time that afternoon, in downtown Lafayette, Judge Faith Graham was watching a young mother and father walk out of her courtroom in tears, after making a string of promises that they were ready to turn things around and get back their 2-year-old son, not to mention their lives.
The couple had told Graham that they had jobs at a Lafayette manufacturer. They told her they were fighting upstream to keep the house they were renting. But since the dad was found Oct. 31 – suspected of a heroin overdose and on the floor with their son nearby – short-term, in-patient rehab at a Lafayette facility hadn’t taken hold. Neither had outpatient programs assigned by the court after both fessed up to their addictions. When asked whether they’d pass a drug screen right there, both said no. They’d used heroin the day before.