Julie Whitman, Executive Director | Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana
Children live in families and communities, not programs and systems. When government intervenes in the life of a child, that intervention is inevitably through a program within a state agency or system.
The Department of Child Services provides court-ordered foster care; the Division of Mental Health and Addiction offers mental health wraparound or substance abuse treatment; and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is provided by the Department of Health.
Our most vulnerable children and families may be involved with every one of these programs and more. So how does the State of Indiana ensure that its various programs and agencies are working effectively together, and not at cross purposes—and more importantly, achieving the best possible results for child and family wellbeing and success? One key piece of the puzzle is regular, intentional collaboration.
The Commission on Improving the Status of Children was created by statute in 2013 to be the vehicle for such coordination and collaboration at the state level. On June 30, 2019, the Commission completed its sixth year of work, and in August released its annual report for state fiscal year 2018-19.
Among other things, the report highlights the following:
- Collaborative actions in support of services for older foster youth, social-emotional and mental health support for students in schools, and research on youth risk behaviors
- Partnerships to provide training and education on the state of Indiana’s children, responding to families with substance use disorders, and trauma
- Creation of an Equity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competence Committee to ensure that the Commission’s work has maximum benefit for each Hoosier child and all groups of children
Tackling such priorities as educational outcomes, juvenile justice and cross-system youth, child safety and services, and mental health and substance abuse, more than 120 volunteers meet regularly throughout the year to hash out solutions that cross the boundaries of systems and programs and keep children and families at the center.
The work is slow—sometimes painfully slow—and the issues are so urgent. However, as the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We want our Hoosier children to travel to the moon and back—to reach their highest aspirations and be afforded every opportunity to grow. We want them to go far, and for that, we must work together.
To read more about the work of the Commission and its task forces, committees, and subcommittees, download the annual report at on.in.gov/ciscrpt2019
If you have questions about this article or would like more information on the Commission, please contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-232-1945.