Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEW BILL EMPOWERS INDIANA COMMUNITIES TO HELP FAMILIES IN CRISIS
BILL CREATING FOSTER CARE ALTERNATIVE PASSES LEGISLATURE
Families experiencing a short-term crisis in Indiana now have a new place to turn for help, their own communities, thanks to legislation just signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence that enjoyed unanimous support in the General Assembly. The bill is modeled after a program known as “Safe Families for Children” which has successfully helped tens of thousands of families across the country navigate temporary problems since 2002.
HB 1183 creates a safe haven for children in need, providing a stable environment that shields them from neglect while their families resolve issues ranging from unemployment, homelessness, hospitalization, or even brief incarceration. One of the major things that makes this program different from foster care is that the parents retain full rights throughout the process and the state is uninvolved. This enables communities to address problems earlier than the state legally could, and it allows families to solve problems before they get out of control, resulting in faster family reunifications.
“Unfortunately, far too many Indiana families struggle with challenges like job loss, homelessness, addiction, or some other crisis that results in their children having to enter the state foster care system,” said Rep. Dave Frizzell, lead author of HB 1183 and a champion for Indiana’s children.
“By the time our child welfare agencies can get involved, a family crisis may have spiraled too far out of control to prevent permanent removal of the children from the home. Many times, everything could’ve been prevented by providing parents with some badly needed short-term help. Having the option of working with a local volunteer family, one of their neighbors, to ensure their children will be well cared for allows parents peace of mind so they can get the help they need while keeping the family intact.”
While foster care is a vital tool in protecting Indiana’s children, many social workers are burdened with huge and unmanageable caseloads, leaving children exposed. This bill will allow families in need to connect with trained and vetted host families to resolve their own problems, which will lighten the load for state social workers who can now focus more serious cases involving abusive neglect and physical or sexual abuse.
“I know there are a lot of great people across Indiana who want to help families in need by becoming foster parents, but are discouraged by the lengthy and burdensome process,” said State Sen. Jim Buck (R-Kokomo), who carried HB 1183 through the Senate. “This bill will streamline that process and get these families connected to those in need by providing safe care and temporary custody for children, while helping parents address their challenges.”
Local child and family advocates also celebrated the bill’s signing, excited that they now have a legal framework for their support of those in need in their communities.
“We are so excited that the General Assembly supported this legislation, which will have a long-term impact on preventing child abuse and keeping families together,” said Krista Shepard Seeds, Executive Director of Safe Families for Children Indiana.
“Safe Families Indiana has been serving our community since 2008, and, thanks to HB 1183, we now have the opportunity to more effectively partner with DCS to reach families in crisis. I am grateful to Rep. Frizzell, Sen. Buck, Speaker Bosma, and Governor Pence for their leadership in embracing innovative solutions, like Safe Families, for the good of Indiana’s children.”
The bill found large support in the General Assembly and was co-authored by Representatives Sheila Klinker, Brian Bosma, Karlee Macer, Curt Nisly, Cindy Ziemke, Robert Heaton, Wendy McNamara, Dennis Zent, Julie Olthoff, and Woody Burton.
Along with Senator Buck, Senate sponsors include Senators Earline Rogers, Travis Holdman, Dennis Kruse, Jon Ford, Vaneta Becker, Patricia Miller, Lonnie Randolph, and Scott Schneider.