OP ED: Sen. Messmer on Supporting Foster Parents and Children

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By State Sen. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper)

Our state has had a number of noteworthy achievements over the past few years. For example, Chief Executive Magazine placed Indiana in the top 10 states for doing business, and the Tax Foundation ranked our tax climate first in the Midwest and ninth in the nation. Despite these accomplishments, we have room to improve in other areas like our foster care system.

According to a preliminary report recently released by the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, the number of Hoosier children in out-of-home care increased by nearly 8,000 between December 2012 and December 2017.

It is important for our state to ensure foster children and foster families are supported and protected. Below are some of the bills I supported during the 2018 legislative session to improve foster care in Indiana.

Senate Enrolled Act 233 requires the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) to establish a working group made up of current foster parents, child-placing agencies and other individuals and organizations with expertise in foster care services. This group will create a statement of the rights and responsibilities of foster parents. Once this statement is complete, DCS will distribute it to both prospective and current foster parents.

House Enrolled Act 1314 also addresses the well-being of foster kids by requiring that the Indiana State Board of Education work with the Department of Education and DCS to prepare and submit an annual report on the educational challenges and outcomes of foster children in both private and state schools. With this information available, schools can determine if foster children are succeeding in their education at the same rate as their peers.

It is essential that foster children are placed with loving, safe families who are familiar with their rights and responsibilities as foster parents, and we need to ensure they have the opportunity to thrive in school. As a father myself, I continue to be dedicated to improving the lives of foster children, and I am eager to see the positive impact this legislation will have on our foster care system.

As always, feel free to contact my office directly with your questions and concerns by email at Senator.Messmer@iga.in.gov or by phone at 800-382-9467.