House lawmakers pack, donate diaper bags to support foster families

Posted by: Erin Reece  | Wednesday, January 24, 2018

STATEHOUSE (Jan. 24, 2018) — House lawmakers switched gears at the Statehouse today and filled much-needed diaper bags with baby supplies for Indiana’s foster families.

The Indiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy and its Institute for Excellence, an organization dedicated to helping foster and adoptive families, co-hosted the “Bags of Hope” event. In November, House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis) first announced the House would partner with IARCA for the 2018 legislative session to help raise awareness about the growing need for foster families.

In Indiana, nearly twice as many children are in the foster care system than there are available foster homes, according to the Department of Child Services. Bosma said more than half of these children have a parent with a substance abuse issue – a growing problem due in part to the opioid epidemic.

“Unfortunately, drug addiction continues to leave thousands of our youngest Hoosiers without a strong family – the foundation to their healthy development,” Bosma said. “Foster families stand in the gap for the state’s vulnerable children who need a temporary, but safe and loving home. Opening your heart to foster a child is a tremendous and special calling, and it’s one we hope more Hoosiers will consider. Today’s volunteer activity gave us a great opportunity to give back to foster parents, and we will continue to keep the safety and wellbeing of Indiana’s most vulnerable as our top priority.”

House lawmakers and staff recently held a donation drive at the Statehouse and collected over 3,800 items for newborns and infants, including diapers, diaper bags, wet wipes, blankets, clothes and toys. 

“Today’s event represents a commitment that the Indiana General Assembly has to Hoosier children in need,” said House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin (D-Austin). “We legislators must always place the children of Indiana as our priority, especially at-risk children who need advocates to help them find safety and realize their full potential as future adults. God bless the foster families who provide a stable home for these diamonds waiting to be polished with unconditional love.”

Cathy Graham, executive director of IARCA, said 90 staff members from 35 IARCA agencies gathered at the Statehouse today to thank legislators for caring about Indiana’s most vulnerable children – those who have been abused or neglected. 

“The Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy is pleased to participate in the ‘Fostering Hope for the Future’ project with Speaker Bosma and Minority Leader Goodin,” Graham said. “Today, Indiana’s tiniest citizens will benefit from the ‘Bags of Hope’ that legislators and staff are donating to foster families. IARCA member agencies also had an opportunity to talk with legislators about the ongoing need to build capacity to serve the increased number of abused and neglected children in the child services system. IARCA agencies are partners with DCS in providing care in foster homes and residential treatment facilities for over 4,500 children.” 

Graham said agencies also provide home-based services to over 7,700 children who were abused or neglected, but remain with their families under a safety plan. She also said about 57 percent of all children entering the child welfare system are newborns through 5 years of age, and many children leave their homes with the clothes they have on or only what they can fit into a small bag. The nonprofit organization also works closely with the Indiana Department of Child Services to improve the lives of children. 

“With the right services at the right time, children and families can heal from the trauma of child abuse and neglect,” Graham said.

According to DCS, the number of children in out-of-home care jumped from 13,811 in September 2015, to 17,214 just two years later. To help spread awareness and encourage more Hoosiers to consider fostering or adopting, legislators and IARCA also launched a social media campaign using #FosterHopeIndiana and www.FosterHopeIndiana.org with information for people looking for ways to help.

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Pictured: House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) talks with Sharon Pierce, president and CEO of The Villages, while packing a diaper bag with much-needed baby supplies for an Indiana foster family during the “Bags of Hope” event on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. This session, House lawmakers partnered with the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy and it’s Institute for Excellence to help raise awareness about the growing need for foster families.

About IARCA Institute for Excellence: IARCA Institute for Excellence is a public benefit corporation and is organized/operated exclusively to benefit, perform and carry out the exclusively public, charitable, scientific, educational and other purposes of IARCA. The Institute for Excellence is a nonprofit organization developed for the purpose of providing services throughout Indiana. In 1999, the IARCA Institute for Excellence was established to promote continual training and development for agencies and their staff who are advocating and providing services to children and families.

IARCA’s 91 member agencies provide care and treatment to 4,600 children every day in foster homes, group homes, and residential treatment facilities. An additional 8,000 children are served in their families’ homes. Of the 5,573 children discharged from services in 2016, 78 percent had a positive educational outcome and 61 percent achieved their required permanency plan. At 6 months follow-up, 97 percent of children had not suffered new abuse or neglect; and 85 percent had not been involved with the courts for new offenses.