INDIANAPOLIS— A Senate committee voted unanimously to approve a bill that would speed up the efforts of the Department of Child Services to find new or permanent homes for foster children as well as provide those in foster care with services until age 21.
Senate Bill 1, authored by Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, will require that DCS make an effort for a minimum of 12 months to identify any adult relatives or adult siblings of a child in foster care. In addition, a new provision would allow foster children who have left the program to return to previous foster families upon reentry to foster care.
Foster parents Amy and Shane Woolf testifying in support of Senate Bill 1, which would change some DCS rules around foster care. Photo by Andrew Longstreth, TheStateHouseFile.com
“We want to make sure that all decisions made by the department (DCS) shall be in consideration of the best interest of the child or children concerned,” said Houchin. “We are making sure that we are serving the best interest of children in these very critical cases.”
Those who testified on the bill shared stories about their foster children and experiences with the DCS. Amy and Shane Woolf urged committee members to pass the bill and allow foster parents like them to eventually adopt children in their care.
The Woolfs have been licensed foster parents for the past five years and have cared for more than 30 children. The Woolf household consists of Amy and Shane, their two biological children and five long-term foster children, some of whom have been with them for five years.
“None of our kids have been adopted, none of them have had their rights terminated yet. We have two kids that are close, and three who are not,” said Amy Woolf. “These children are only five and six years old and they have been through so much. If we would have had this bill in the first original county are voices could have been heard when being denied by a judge for three years.”
DCS voiced support for SB 1 with Will Young, legislative director for the DCS, describing how the proposed legislation would affect the agency.
“Senate Bill 1 contains important policies that reflect the priorities of the DCS,” Young said. “Indiana is well above average when it comes to placing children with relatives, its something were really proud of and were happy to comply.”
The final vote was 8-0.
Andrew Longstreth is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.