Indiana's handling of child services has been abysmal at times. Lawmakers have tweaked the system, in some cases making it even worse.

The Department of Child Services has been in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Newspapers throughout the state have chronicled tragic stories of children who have been abused and died, despite efforts to report their plight to DCS.

Locally, funding for youth programs has been cut and our local youth shelter was forced to close.

Now, lawmakers want local officials to have more control about when to investigate cases of child abuse and neglect.

That's a good idea. We trust it will soon become the practice in Indiana.

On Tuesday the legislators - members of a study committee reviewing Department of Child Services operations - made its report. Among other things, the panel asked the state to draft emergency regulations to give county field workers a voice in handling of abuse and neglect calls that are made to a central hotline. The panel also recommended creating a permanent legislative committee to oversee the agency, as well as expanding and adding child fatality review teams.

DCS officials said the decision would maintain a centralized reporting system they have called a national model, while decentralizing decisions on which calls are investigated.

"The hotline would send all calls to the local office, then the local office would make the decision under this plan" David Judkins, DCS deputy director of field operations, told the panel.

The state estimates the program would cost $9 million, much of it for hiring new caseworkers to work in the county field offices. With children's lives at stake - and with the state running a surplus - that will be money well-spent.