House lawmakers to raise awareness of foster home shortage

Legislators launch partnership, donation drive to support foster families

Posted by: Erin Reece  | Tuesday, November 21, 2017

STATEHOUSE (Nov. 21, 2017) – As the demand for foster families in Indiana reaches an all-time high, House lawmakers are finding ways to help children in need.

House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) announced today that the Indiana House of Representatives is partnering with the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy and its Institute for Excellence during the 2018 legislative session. The nonprofit organization serves over 4,600 children every day in foster homes, group homes and treatment facilities, and works closely with the Indiana Department of Child Services to improve the lives of children.

“We have too many children across Indiana who are waiting for a foster or adoptive family,” Bosma said. “Through our partnership with IARCA, we want to encourage more Hoosiers to open their hearts and change a life through fostering or adopting. We need more loving homes to bring safety, stability and hope to children and adolescents who have nowhere else to turn. If you aren’t able to care for a child, we encourage you to reach out to foster families in your area, as they too, need support and encouragement.”

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

To help spread awareness and encourage more Hoosiers to consider fostering or adopting, legislators and IARCA launched a social media campaign using #FosterHopeIndiana and a new website, www.FosterHopeIndiana.org, with information for anyone looking for ways to help.

“IARCA and its Institute for Excellence are pleased to join Speaker Bosma, Democratic Leader Pelath, and the 100 members of the Indiana House in this call to action,” said IARCA Executive Director Cathy Graham. “Children who have suffered abuse or neglect need a family to provide a heart and a home while they heal and their families receive treatment. Foster families stand in the gap until a child can be safely returned to their family, or until an adoptive family is matched with the child. IARCA member agencies recruit, screen, train and provide supports to foster families to provide hope for children in need. We need foster families to work with children of all ages, who come from varied cultures, and who have a range of special needs. Matched with the right family and services, abused and neglected children can heal from their trauma and lead successful lives.”

About 57 percent of all children entering the child welfare system are newborns through 5 years of age, according to Graham. Many of these children leave their homes with the clothes they have on or only what they can fit into a trash bag. That’s why legislators launched a donation drive to collect needed items, like diapers and blankets, for foster families caring for newborns and infants. 

“Foster care provides a tremendous opportunity for children and teenagers who have been abused or neglected,” Pelath said. “They are placed with a foster family who will be there for them during this time of crisis and welcome them with unconditional love. It is a renewed hope for these young people to realize their own personal value to themselves and others by establishing relationships built on encouragement, love, stability and trust. Foster care is truly life-changing for these youth.”

On Jan. 24, lawmakers plan to fill diaper bags with donated items during IARCA’s annual day at the Statehouse. Bosma said the Indiana Heart Gallery, a traveling photo exhibit featuring portraits of children in need of adoptive families, will be featured outside the House Chamber throughout the legislative session. According to DCS, about 150 children are available for adoption in Indiana at any given time.

“I left my practice as an attorney for a year when my husband, Weston, and I became licensed as foster parents through The Villages,” said Karen Young, a foster and adoptive parent from Indianapolis. “It has become clear to us that nothing is more important than investing in Indiana’s children, especially those most vulnerable who are without a safe and nurturing family. We now have three children of our own – two adoptive sons and one biological daughter – because of The Villages, who initially made us parents. We are absolutely thrilled that House Speaker Brian Bosma is focusing on the need that Indiana has for more loving, caring foster and adoptive families. I understand that the need has never been greater and keeps growing. Our hope is that hundreds of adults will hear this plea and choose to make a difference in the life of a child.”

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.

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Photo Caption: House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis) stands with 11-year-old AJ Young, the adopted son of Karen and Weston Young of Indianapolis, as he talks about the importance of all children having a family to call their own. Bosma announced the Indiana House of Representatives partnered with the Indiana Association for Resources and Child Advocacy Institute for Excellence for the 2018 legislative session to help spread awareness and encourage more Hoosiers to consider fostering or adopting.

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.