Indiana, child services providers agree on rate hike

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The Indiana Department of Child Services will pay an extra $15 million to child service providers next year under an agreement resolving a three-year dispute over how it reimburses residential and foster care for abused and neglected children.

The agency announced a legal settlement with IARCCA, a group of about 100 care providers. It deals with the rates paid to cover additional staffing costs and cost-of-living expenses to residential facilities and foster-care agencies.

DCS spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland says the cost of the agreement beyond 2013 isn't determined yet.

The dispute stems from DCS's efforts since 2008 to create consistent rates after it took over payments to providers previously handled by counties.

IARCCA Executive Director Cathleen Graham says more work is needed and the two sides will continue to meet.

Lawmakers propose DCS hotline changes, new panels

Also, Indiana lawmakers want new committees to oversee the embattled Department of Child Services and more child protection decisions made locally.

Members of a study committee reviewing DCS operations asked the state to draft emergency regulations that would give county representatives a voice in the handling of abuse and neglect calls to a central hotline. The committee also proposed creating a team to review child deaths and a permanent legislative committee to oversee the agency.

Tuesday's action came after months of emotional hearings on troubles at the agency following news media investigations into dozens of child deaths across the state. Lawmakers and children's advocates blamed the state's centralized abuse reporting hotline in large part for "screening out" calls that should have been investigated.

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