Dual Status in Indiana

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Indiana Court Times on 1/15/2019 by Hon. Vicki Carmichael | Judge, Clark Circuit Court #4 and Hon. Charles F. Pratt | Judge, Allen Superior Court

A Cultural Shift

Historically, two distinct and separate paths were followed in the provision of services to children who came to the attention of the juvenile justice system. The selected path was generally not determined as a result of an assessment of the totality of the child’s circumstances and needs. Rather, the path was determined by the incident or report through which the child was first identified.

If a delinquent act was first identified, then the child was placed on the delinquency trajectory. If the child was first seen as a victim of neglect or abuse, the child was a Child in Need of Services (CHINS). Although youth and families often crossed agency lines, workers rarely did. Child serving agencies often operated in silos – even physically and culturally separated from one another. Once labeled, little could be done to address the systemic crossover of a child’s co-occurrence of problematic behaviors and environment.

Over the past decade research informed us that maltreated children commit almost twice as many offenses as children who do not suffer from neglect or abuse. (Widom, C.S, and Maxfield M.G. (2001) United States Department of Justice).

A disproportionate number of foster children were placed in secured detention and, of those, there was a significant disproportionality of African American children (Ryan, Hertz, Hernandez, Marshall, (2007) Children and Youth Service Review 29).

Today it is more readily acknowledged that a child’s trauma can impact behavioral choices. Indiana’s experiences with crossover youth and their accompanying system challenges were no different than those occurring nationally.

Although there were pockets on a case-by-case basis where collaboration between child welfare and juvenile probation occurred, there was no legal framework to provide authority for and consistency to the process. To uniformly meet the needs of crossover children it became clear meaningful change to state child welfare and juvenile justice systems was necessary.

Through the work of Casey Family Programs, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform of Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, and the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center of Juvenile Justice, evidence-based practices were developed to guide juvenile courts in meeting the complicated needs of crossover children.

Using the Casey Family Crossover Youth Practice Model, juvenile court judges and representatives of the Department of Child Services (DCS), with the leadership of Representative Wendy McNamara, spearheaded an effort to help Indiana pass legislation for Dual Status children. Following near unanimous support by the state legislature, then-Governor Michael Pence signed the bill into law in 2015. Indiana’s Dual Status law became the first of its kind in the nation.

John Tuell, Executive Director of the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center of Juvenile Justice, wrote that the legislation will “serve as an outstanding framework for multiple other states to positively impact dual status outcomes.”

Following the bill’s passage, five pilot counties were selected. Tippecanoe, Elkhart, Allen, Clark, and Henry counties became known as the “TEACH” counties. Under a separate grant, crossover youth services and protocols were developed by Marion County through the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center of Juvenile Justice.

Following the evidence-based practice model, the law provides four circumstances though which a child may be identified as a Dual Status (crossover) child: (1) dually identified; (2) dually involved; and (3) dually adjudicated. The fourth category relates to those children who are eligible for release from the Department of Correction but whose parent, guardian or custodian cannot be located or is unwilling to take custody.

Regardless of the door they come through, every child who enters the juvenile system – whether as a delinquent or as a CHINS – must be screened at the initial assessment to determine whether he or she is a Dual Status child.

Dually Identified children are those who are currently involved with the juvenile justice system and alleged to be a CHINS. Conversely, this category also includes children who are currently involved in the child welfare system and are alleged to have committed a delinquent act. “Alleged to be” refers to situations where no case or petition has been filed, but there is information offered sufficient to allege a CHINS condition or the commission of a delinquent act. “Alleged to be” does not require an active case or investigation in both systems to create a Dual Status child.

Dually Involved youth are youth who have concurrent involvement with both juvenile justice and child welfare. That can mean diversion, informal adjustment, formal filing, or a combination of these options. Dually Adjudicated youth are those youth who are currently adjudicated in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

At the Preliminary Inquiry stage, the juvenile court judge must be apprised that the child has been identified as a Dual Status child. Upon review of the factual circumstances of the child’s needs, the court may establish a Dual Status Assessment Team composed of a court appointed facilitator, a representative of the DCS and juvenile probation, and others, including the child’s public defender, Court Appointed Special Advocate, and parents. The assembled Dual Status Assessment Team has the duty to evaluate the path or paths that will best meet the holistic needs of the child.

The Dual Status Assessment Team must meet within ten days. The Team shall make recommendations to the court that may include proceeding with a CHINS case and dismissing the delinquency petition; proceeding with the delinquency petition and dismissing a CHINS; proceeding with both; or dismissing both. Referrals to other agencies and services without court intervention may be suggested.

The report should also include recommendation for services or referrals that will serve the child’s best interests. A lead agency – either DCS or Probation – will also be recommended. The lead agency has the primary responsibility for the governance of the Dual Status case. In deciding who the lead agency should be, the Dual Status Assessment Team considers the child’s social and family situation, the child’s prior experience with DCS; any prior adjudications of delinquency; and the needs, strengths, and risks of the child.

As the Dual Status legislation has rolled out a common misconception has been repeated. Oft times it is assumed that once a lead agency is determined, the other agency is released from the Dual Status case. Because the Dual Status child has a complicated history and thus more significant challenges and needs, it is essential that DCS and Probation continue to collaborate and communicate, even if one agency no longer has a case.

The problematic lives of Dual Status children are not static. Thus the systems’ responsibility to them and their families must continue to be a collaborative effort.

The research demonstrates that through this collaborative effort greater opportunities are developed to prevent the child’s entry or continued movement through the juvenile justice system. Dual Status processes provide Indiana’s juvenile court judges with the means to access expertise and resources that best meet the needs of Dual Status youth and their families.

This professional collaboration results in more effective responses for children. It also increases the likelihood of steering children away from the juvenile justice system as well as linking the youth and families with the most effective services and treatment.

There is no wrong door! Children and their families need no longer be defined by their point of entry. Dual Status provides the juvenile court judge with the ability to pool the expertise of caseworkers, probation officers, mental health providers, educators, family members, legal representatives and others to help resolve those cases that tend to be the most complicated and challenging.

In the counties who have been piloting this process, between 18-20% of the cases are identified as Dual Status. The statistical breakdown of lead agency determinations reflects that the DCS is assigned as the lead in 57% of the cases and juvenile probation is deemed the lead in 43% of the cases. 14% of the cases originated with a current CHINS case, 38% originated with a delinquency case, and 36% originated with involvement in both systems. Thus, there is no evidence that one agency is “dumping” their case to the other as was once feared. Instead, there is evidence of improved communication and understanding of each system’s process.

In a survey conducted in Allen County by Department of Child Services Division Manager Gary Jones, 86% of DCS family case managers and their supervisors characterized their communication regarding children in need of services with juvenile probation prior to the Dual Status legislation as nonexistent or sporadic. Similarly, 83% of probation officers reported no or only sporadic levels of collaboration with DCS. Since the implementation of Dual Status, those numbers have changed significantly.

In 2017, little more than a year after full implementation of the new law, 54% of probation officers reported that they often and regularly communicate with DCS regarding children under their supervision. 69% reported that they regularly collaborate with DCS. Similarly, 48% of the DCS caseworkers reported often or regular communication with juvenile probation.

In Clark County, the numbers are very similar. DCS family case managers reported little or no contact with probation prior to implementation of Dual Status legislation, other than in those cases where a CHINS committed a delinquent act while in DCS placement. Probation officers had little to no contact with DCS unless they were told by the family or a family case manager of a pending CHINS case. Since implementation, a single point of contact has been established in both juvenile probation and the local DCS office. Those two individuals now speak almost daily sharing information to determine the status of possible crossover youth.

In addition, Clark County has a weekly Dual Status Assessment Team meeting. If there are no new referrals, the Team still meets to discuss the progress of any prior youth they have made recommendations on and to ensure services are being offered. Clark County established a system where the same facilitator is used in every case.

There are also other regular members of the Team, including the juvenile probation officer and family case manager, juvenile prosecutor, DCS attorney, CASA, and the public defenders or defense attorneys for the child and family.

The benefits for children, families, and the juvenile justice systems as promised by the research are becoming a reality in Indiana. Yet, much work needs to be done. The process of identifying children as Dual Status is more than a change in paradigms; it is a cultural shift. Crossover youth do not present as typical cases. Their issues and needs are complicated and difficult to address. Dual Status cases require more time. Implementation of the protocol is hard work and requires local leadership from the juvenile court judge, DCS, and probation. But this work is the true calling of juvenile justice.

For more information about Dual Status in Indiana, contact Judge Vicki Carmichael at vcarmichael@co.clark.in.us or 812-285-6294; Judge Charles F. Pratt at charles.pratt@allensuperiorcourt.us or 260-449-7289; or Matt Hagenbush, Court Improvement Program Staff Attorney, at matthew.hagenbush@courts.in.gov or 317-234-5346.