McNamara: Putting our children first

Posted by: Jessica Baker  | Thursday, March 3, 2016

This session I have continued to focus my attention on the safety of our children by supporting legislation that would safeguard Hoosier youth from the shortcomings of our adoption system and foster care programs.

The adoption system currently limits adoptees from obtaining basic information on their biological parents. Prior to 1993, there was no way for mothers to indicate that medical records, birth certificates or basic contact information could be released to adopted children. If enacted, Senate Bill 91 would provide that identifying adoption information may be released, unless a non-release form is on file, regardless of when the adoption is filed. Currently, children adopted between 1941 and 1993 must petition a court in order to get their medical records.

This legislation would also replace a non-release form with a contact preference form. The birth parent can choose to welcome contact directly from adoptee, prefer contact through an intermediary, prefer no contact or prefer no contact, but allow the release of medical information. We are giving adoptees the opportunity to become more aware of their family’s medical history, which could potentially save or enhance their life.

House Bill 1183, would allow for parents or guardians with power of attorney over their children to delegate responsibility for their children to third-party individuals without requiring those individuals to submit to the licensing and regulations requirements that foster care providers must adhere to. For example, parents who are unable to take care of their children due to health reasons or military deployment could assign control of them to someone they trust without fear of losing custody.

Our foster care system needs to be revamped in order to prohibit criminals from obtaining or keeping custody of children. Senate Bill 305 would add human or sexual trafficking offenses, sexual battery against a child, vicarious sexual gratification offenses, child solicitation, patronizing a prostitute and promoting prostitution to the list of offenses under which a child victim may be designated as a child in need of services. This legislation also allows children who live in the same household as an adult who has been committed or charged with human or sexual trafficking and is in need of care, treatment or rehabilitation to be placed in child services. Recently, reducing human and sexual trafficking has become a focus of the Indiana General Assembly, and this legislation seeks to further advance our agenda to reduce these crimes in our state.

Another measure that deals with our foster care program is House Bill 1069, which would allow the juvenile court and the Department of Child Services to issue protective and restraining orders against a person threatening the well-being of a foster family. Foster homes are a safe haven for children who previously lived in dangerous environments, and it is important that we provide foster parents with the tools necessary to protect themselves as well as the children under their supervision.

In order to ensure the safety of Hoosier children we must modify our child services, including our adoption system and foster care programs. Adolescents have the right to grow up in a safe and loving environment. I remain committed to authoring and sponsoring legislation that protects our youth and it is my hope that we can work together in combating these issues moving forward.

As always, if you have any questions or input about these, or other bills moving through the process, please contact me at h76@iga.in.gov or by phone at 1(800)382-9841.

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Rep. McNamara (R-Evansville) represents portions of Posey and Vanderburgh counties.