Mahan: Expanding protections for our most vulnerable

Posted by: Lydia Kirschner  | Monday, April 22, 2019 9:11 am

Improving outcomes for foster children is a priority for lawmakers this legislative session. I am sponsoring Senate Bill 1 to strengthen the Indiana Department of Child Services by prioritizing the best interests of vulnerable children, making changes to adoption consent and implementing foster parent intervention.

The bill helps ensure that all department decisions should prioritize the best interests of the child in need.  One way DCS considers the best interests of children is by exercising due diligence to identify all adult relatives and adult siblings who may be considered as out-of-home placements. According to the Children’s Bureau, removing children from their birth families can be disruptive and traumatic, which can lead to long-term, negative effects. By keeping children with relatives whenever possible, we help to ensure stable, familiar environments and keep them with their friends, school and community.

Under this legislation, those convicted of certain crimes, such as murder, rape and child molestation in Indiana or another state, would not need to provide consent for their children to be adopted. If the child has been under the supervision of a foster parent for six months and removed from the parent for 15 of the most recent 22 months, the foster parent may file a request for the termination of the parent-child relationship. Granting rights to stable foster parents when biological parents prove they cannot be counted on gives vulnerable children a consistent and predictable living environment in which they can grow and develop.

This proposed legislation would also provide methods for foster parents or guardians to intervene in certain DCS cases, such as the termination of a parent-child relationship or a child in need of services. This bill would require DCS and the Office of Judicial Administration to prepare a form that can be used to provide written testimony and allows foster parents to offer additional written testimony in these cases. A child in need of services would be defined as having parents who are unable or unwilling to provide the child with the necessary food, shelter, medical care, education or supervision they need.

With over 9,000 children in Indiana’s foster care system, I encourage Hoosiers with the means to consider opening their homes to those in need. By working together, we can help improve outcomes for Indiana’s most vulnerable. Visit in.gov/dcs to learn more about the foster care system and what you can do to make an impact.

Visit iga.in.gov to learn more about Senate Bill 1. As session continues, let’s stay connected. For questions or input, please call 317-234-9499 or email H31@iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Kevin Mahan (R-Hartford City) represents House District 31,

which includes all of Blackford County and portions of Delaware, Grant and Wells counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.