It is such a privilege for me to represent the citizens of Kosciusko and Elkhart counties, a humbling experience that affords me the opportunity to positively impact on our community. Since being elected in 2010, I diligently try, every day, to do my best to represent our area in a fashion that will make you proud of who you have sent to Indianapolis.
As a mother and grandmother, one of my top priorities at the Statehouse is the well-being of Hoosiers, especially the most vulnerable among us. Being one of seven children with very little money, I am very well aware of the challenges most Hoosier families are dealing with.
This year, I am honored to be chairing the Committee on Children, Family and Human Affairs. I strongly believe that children must be protected, cared for, and provided with the tools for success. The difficult experiences my family faced while I was growing up have given me a unique perspective when it comes to the needs of Hoosier families. You see, when you grow up with very little in life you never lose compassion for others. It becomes a part of who you are because you have been there.
The Committee on Children, Family and Human Affairs works closely with issues relating to Hoosier children and their families. Our committee also works in cohesion with the Department of Child Services to help better the world in which our children are growing up in.
The committee has passed several bills that will positively impact the lives of children. Many of the bills being debated this session resulted from this summer’s interim study committee that looked into the Department of Child Services and what else could be done to help Hoosier children. Summer study committees fully vet legislative ideas and research the various implications if bills are to be enacted. The members of this committee have worked hard to come together to bring forth legislation that will truly help children.
For instance, House Bill 1040 allows a prosecuting attorney to file CHINS (child in need of services) petitions. The Family, Children, and Human Affairs Committee has been working on this bill since the summer. The prosecuting attorney can request for a juvenile court to authorize the filing of a petition alleging that a child is in need of services and requires a prosecuting attorney to represent the interest of the state in the proceeding. This bill will help protect children in the court room.
Petitions to modify custody and visitation are covered under House Bill 1041. This bill requires a person who is filing a petition to modify guardianship, custody or visitation to inform the court if they have been determined to be a perpetrator in a substantiated assessment of child abuse or neglect, or if the child named has been determined to be a child in need of services or informal adjustment. A judge cannot make such an important decision when it comes to modification of custody without the full disclosure of information.
House Bill 1123 is three bills merged together. The bill establishes the Commission on Children. This commission is charged with studying and evaluating services, programs, and laws for at-risk youth. A major component of the bill is establishing a Fatality Review Team in each county. These review teams will submit an annual report to the state child fatality review coordinator and require a local review team to analyze a child’s death in certain circumstances.
Lastly, House Bill 1494 requires background checks for anyone who comes in contact with children in child care centers. Keeping our children safe is a priority. This bill will assure parents that their children will be safe and secure. With child care providers undergoing national criminal history background checks, parents can feel confident in their chosen provider.
By providing Hoosier children a safe environment to grow and a safe place to learn, the doors to the future are open to those willing to walk through.
It’s an honor to represent our community at the Statehouse, and I look forward to helping Hoosier families both now, and in the future. If you would like to keep up-to-date with these pieces of legislation and more like them, please visit www.in.gov/legislative, or feel free to contact me at H22@in.gov, or by calling 317-232-9619.