Indianapolis Guardianship Organization Withdraws From Contract

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The organization that provided court-appointed lawyers for juveniles through the Marion County court system for nearly 40 years withdrew from contract negotiations more than a week before the new contract went into effect. effective May 1.

This decision casts doubt on the county’s ability to provide sufficient ad litem guardians or child advocates, known as LAGs or CASAs, to children who find themselves facing legal dilemmas in the justice system, such as divorces, child abuse or neglect cases.

Child Advocates had been the provider of court-appointed special advocates since 1982, but an external audit in January raised flags over how the organization was spending city funds. The city’s contract with Child Advocates which began in January 2020 for $ 5.4 million had to be renegotiated twice to be raised to $ 8.8 million, according to the Office of Health and Human Rights. public security.

Instead, that office announced that it would begin partnering with Kids’ Voice of Indiana as of May 1. Kids’ Voice president and CEO Lindsay Scott told IndyStar on April 5 that the transition plan involved supporting staff and volunteers already in place with Child Advocates.

But Paul Jefferson, a lawyer at McNeely Law and spokesperson for Child Advocates, told IndyStar the organization withdrew from a memorandum of understanding because it could not agree to the wording of the proposed contract.

“The biggest sticking point was that we felt like because we are the only certified entity (in Marion County) that we needed to maintain a significant amount of control over daily operations for at least a period of time. “said Jefferson. This period would have lasted until early September or until Kids’ Voice received state certification, he added.

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Advocates for children speak for those who have no say in the matter.

State certification opens the door to state funding to support GAL and CASA services. Emily VanOsdol, a court administrator at Marion County Superior Court, said Kids’ Voice of Indiana is working with the Indiana Court Services Office to get certified.

Jefferson said Child Advocates has more than 50 staff and 500 volunteers. Kids’ Voice of Indiana told IndyStar they had 30 employees, not including the five employees they currently hire, and 250 volunteers.

The Office of Public Health and Safety, the Marion County Superior Court and the Indiana Supreme Court said Thursday they are committed to working together to maintain GAL and CASA services despite the difference in number of staff between the two organizations.

“Throughout this process, our priority has been and remains clear: children affected by the critical work that LAG / CASA services provide,” reads a statement prepared by the Office of Public Health and Safety from the city. “The OPHS stands ready to ensure minimal disruption of these services as the effective date of the new contract approaches.”

Kids’ Voice said in a statement that it had already started interviewing and hiring for the positions needed to fulfill the city contract, and had started posting job offers for program staff and lawyers Thursday.

The organization also said through a spokesperson that it already provides ad litem guardian services and has written a book on cases involving children in need of services which is used to train volunteers to CASA.

“While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are prepared to focus on the important work of giving children a voice as they navigate the Marion County court system,” said the chairman of the board. administration Jon DeSalvo and CEO Lindsay Scott in a joint statement.

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The city’s decision not to renew the contract with Child Advocates stems from a third-party assessment conducted by law firm Crowe LLP, which found discrepancies in the way the nonprofit was operating. its files. The Child Advocates, for example, reportedly failed to provide evidence to support some of the costs charged to the city during a contract from January to October 2020.

In a response submitted to Crowe LLP, Child Advocates took issue with the criticism, in some cases saying they were doing what the city ordered them to do.

Crowe LLP’s audit was triggered by what PAHO spokesperson Caroline Ellert called “chronic and substantial cost overruns.”

“Given this significant cost overrun over the original budget of $ 5.4 million, BSPO felt it was more critical than ever for CA to provide clear and comprehensive supporting information,” said she declared. “As the Crowe documentation points out, CA has not been able to satisfactorily justify the basis of a number of its cost and expense calculations.”

Call IndyStar Courts Reporter Johnny Magdaleno at 317-273-3188 or email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @IndyStarJohnny

Call IndyStar reporter Amelia Pak-Harvey at 317-444-6175 or email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AmeliaPakHarvey.

Contact Holly Hays, IndyStar reporter, at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.



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