Gov. Pence signs bill providing help for children and families in crisis

Yesterday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed House Bill 1183 into law, providing much-needed relief to Indiana’s overburdened and overwhelmed child-protective service bureaucracy. This bill was inspired by the work of Safe Families for Children, a national private charity that is working wonders for struggling families and children in 27 different states and has been serving Indiana since 2008. Thanks to Governor Pence’s signing of HB 1183, Safe Families and other local community organizations will now be able to have a greater impact on ensuring that children grow up in a safe, loving home.

Across the country, 400,000 children languish in foster care and 70 percent are there because of neglect, which often occurs when a family struggling with issues like poverty is faced with an unexpected crisis. Safe Families provides a safe place for families to turn during these times of crisis, helping to alleviate the stress of issues like homeless, serious illness, domestic abuse, or even addiction so that children are cared for while their parents work to get back on their feet.

A major difference between Safe Families and the existing foster care system is that Safe Families utilizes volunteers from the local communities to address issues earlier than the state system legally could, thus increasing the likelihood that a family will remain intact. Also, since the Safe Families program is entirely voluntary and parents retain full legal and parental rights throughout the entire time their child is in care, parents can feel free to ask for help without the fear that their children will be taken away from them.

While the Department of Child Services provides a valuable service, they simply can’t be everywhere at all times, leaving children exposed and caseworkers struggling under the weight of unmanageable caseloads. House Bill 1183, which was sponsored by Rep. David Frizzell (R-Dist. 93) and carried in the Senate by Sen. James Buck (R-Dist. 21), creates a system that allows families to connect with a trained and screened host family who will help them address their problems before things spiral out of control. The bill also provides a process whereby DCS can refer low-impact cases to organizations like Safe Families, which will help lighten the load for state social workers and free them up to focus on the most serious cases. It also unleashes the most powerful resource in Indiana – the community – to come to the aid of those in need.

The basic value of neighbors helping neighbors lies at the heart of HB 1183, and is one of the reasons this legislation enjoyed unanimous, bi-partisan support in the General Assembly. Joining Rep. Frizzell and Sen. Buck were the following co-authors:

House: Speaker Brian Bosma, Representatives Sheila Klinker, Karlee Macer, Curt Nisly, Cindy Ziemke, Robert Heaton, Wendy McNamara, Dennis Zent, Julie Olthoff, and Woody Burton.

Senate: Senators Earline Rogers, Travis Holdman, Dennis Kruse, Jon Ford, Vaneta Becker, Patricia Miller, Lonnie Randolph, and Scott Schneider.

Thanks to the leadership of Governor Pence, Rep. Frizzell, Sen. Buck, and the entire General Assembly, more of Indiana’s children will have the opportunity to realize their basic human right to a safe, loving family.