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Asking For Answers: Guv, Payne Must Be Open About This Tragedy

Dcs_logoBefore we kick off what's bound to be an emotional discussion about the death of TaJanay Bailey, let's get one thing straight: This is first and foremost a tragedy. This little girl, fatally battered and beaten by her mother and her mother's boyfriend, never had a chance. Her life was taken from her, and we must never lose sight of that loss.

But this isn't just a story about a defenseless child whose time on this planet was cut short by monsters who should have been caring for her. It's also a story about accountability. Government stepped in and took responsibility for Bailey, but something went horribly wrong.

Child welfare became a political issue during the 2004 campaign, when the Guv said things like this:

"We can hardly do worse. Across the entire spectrum, the record is one of failure to the children and families of Indiana. After 16 years, it's just not plausible that they are the ones to fix it."

And we read editorials like this one, which ran in the Indy Star on Oct. 13, 2004:

"Each candidate for governor should look at Anthony Bars' photo every day between now and Nov. 2. He also should review the facts surrounding the case. And think about what he would do as governor to prevent other children from suffering Anthony's fate.

"State investigators removed Anthony and his sister Latoya from their birth mother's home and placed them in foster care. More than a year later, the state removed the children from a loving foster home and placed them for adoption with distant relatives. The children's caseworker apparently failed to conduct a routine background check on the adoptive parents.

"The results? Anthony, beaten and malnourished, eventually died from the abuse. Latoya, also badly abused, was returned to her foster mother. The adoptive parents, L.B. and Latricia Bars, were sent to prison. The caseworker, Denise Moore, was fired."

After almost three years on the job, the Guv's hand-picked child welfare chief and former Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Jim Payne boasts about having added hundreds of caseworkers since mid-2005. And on the day of Bailey's death, the Guv himself accepted at award from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for his work in the area of child welfare.

And yet, TaJanay Bailey is no longer with us because the system somehow failed her.

Whether it's fair to lay blame at the feet of Mitch Daniels and Jim Payne remains to be seen. What is fair, however, is to ask them for answers. How did this happen? How can we prevent it from happening again? Do you accept the same level of responsibility for this tragedy that you tried to pin on your predecessors for Bars' death?

There can be no disagreement that the death of a child diminishes us in ways that we are not fully equipped to explain, but we have the right -- indeed, almost the duty -- to ask both for an explanation of and accountability for the circumstances surrounding that death.

Comments

TDW, this is an excellent post. I'm glad you were so measured in your tone.

The DCS was in a slump, to put it mildly in 2004. There was a string of several deaths that led to then-candidate Daniels' criticism.

I think it's hard to criticize Governor Daniels' record in this area. He pushed for funding and hiring of more caseworkers and improved the system. To my knowledge, there hasn't been a problem like this in his tenure.

One preventable child death is too many. And I'm sure someone could have saved this girl, but unfortunately some cases slip through the cracks.

The administration needs to be up front and honest about this case, and fix any entrenched problems that may have caused it. But TaJanay's case should not spoil the governor's entire record on child services.

For one, before anything else, I'd like to hear from the caseworkers themselves instead of Payne or Daniels. Just how is their case load? Has the number of new workers been offset by resignations and retirements? I guess I'd just like to hear from the people in the trenches who have the best interest of the kids at heart instead of the people at the top where the political self-interest lies. This is surely a case where we'll be able to see just how transparent the Daniels administration chooses to be.

A slightly more measured tone is in order. It makes me sick to see read this. What a tragedy.

Oh please. If this had happened under O'Bannon/Kernan, Carl Brizzi would have already issued subpoenas.

If receiving any government assistance and female, she and her female children of age should be on state provided birth control. We wouldn't have the crime or poverty rates in this nation if people would shut their legs. This tragedy along with countless others would have been avoided if the birth was terminated or prevented. Unwanted births does no good for our society and the individuals born into a loveless world.

In addition to be rather crude, your idea is hardly practical... you want the government to decide who should have kids???

But didn't this happen in the complex Tully wrote about... here's hoping Ballard shuts that place down. Get some pressure on the out-of-state landlords to maintain order and fine them until the place is brought up to code or closed down.

That won't solve all the problems, but it would be a good start. What a sad place for any child to live.

The State should decide who has children? Yes, lets give the government even more decisions and control of our lives. NOT.

I certainly am far from an advocate for Mitch Daniels. However, I have to give credit where credit is due. In at least this department, it appears he made a good choice in Judge Payne. The changes that have happened and are ongoing in that system appear to be based on best practices and are effective. I am very impressed with what Judge Payne has done with DCS and feel that he has definately gone a long way in helping the overworked DCS case managers and the children under their watch. It is an extremely unfortunate circumstance of our current world that events like this happen. While we certainly need to look at what happened in this case, and hold those responsible if there were errors in judgement, and make needed changes to prevent further occurances, I do believe that the system itself is much improved and headed in the right direction. Instead of blame, lets, for once, give support to a system that is doing a good job.

"The State should decide who has children?" When it comes down to my tax dollars, yes. People keep screaming about our taxes are too high, public schools are in the pits and crime is outrageous. Well, lets look at the circumstances behind these issues. Too many kids growing up with little or no parental supervision or guidance. Multiple siblings with different sperm donors. The only way to stop this trend is to drastically alter the way we treat the handouts we give. Truthfully, the only people that should get public assistance are the elderly and the disabled. Physically healthy individuals need to work like the rest of us. Maybe then we wouldn't have such a bad problem with illegal immigrants. They also need think more responsibly about protecting themselves from unwanted pregnancies. Plan Parenthood provides these services at a very reasonable price. Republicans scream about abortion and Democrats scream about choice but darn-it, we continue to see more people staying on the system breading more layabouts that contribute to the failing education system and higher crime rates. Something needs to be done and wasting more money supporting people that can support themselves isn't the solution. Mandatory birth control and abortions while collecting government welfare such as Medicaid, section 8, food stamps and welfare checks. This my friends will save billions in tax dollars and lower crime.

"Mandatory birth control and abortions while collecting government welfare such as Medicaid, section 8, food stamps and welfare checks. This my friends will save billions in tax dollars and lower crime."

Great idea 12:51...but someone already beat you to the punch on this. I'm pretty sure his logic was that Slavic babies were too much of a burden on the government, so mandatory abortions were in the best interests of the German people.

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