By the time the girl was in Rush’s court, she was victim of repeated sexual abuse. “I remember her describing the abuse and her asking me, ‘Is this too hard for you to hear?’ “ Rush recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Too hard for me? This should be too hard for you.”
Last year, at the invitation of the Indiana Judicial Conference, the National Center for State Courts took a look at how Indiana was serving the needs of the state’s vulnerable children.
It found there are more than 30 Indiana-based entities, committees or groups that focus on various issues affecting children. It also found a lack of communication among key agencies that caused duplicated efforts and divisive turf battles and resulted in extra costs to taxpayers.
The commission that Rush will chair for the next year will take a closer look at that report, during what she hopes will be candid and productive conversations.
She points to similar work done on a smaller scale in her home county of Tippecanoe. While on the bench, she launched a series of annual summits on juvenile justice issues, bringing together police and prosecutors, with social service agencies, court officials, and community, school, and church leaders. Among the issues they focused on: keeping children who were in the court system in their home schools, and finding alternatives to suspending or expelling children in trouble from school.
“We knew we had to keep kids in school,” Rush said. “We knew every time a kid was taken out of school, or moved to a new school, they were going to suffer a setback.”
The commission intentionally includes members of all three branches of government, and includes the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Attorney General, the head of Family and Children Services, and four legislative leaders.