Bill would provide foster parents with bill of rights

foster parents bill of rights (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Foster parents in Indiana are a step closer to getting a state-mandated bill of rights.

The move signals support for foster parents from some state lawmakers in the wake of a huge shake-up within the Department of Child Services.

Heidi Curtis said she enjoys being the foster mother of three children.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Curtis said. “It’s pretty exciting being able to get a new child. It’s also challenging.”

The Department of Child Services faces its own set of challenges. Gov. Eric Holcomb recently appointed a new director, after the former director resigned last month in a scathing letter critical of Holcomb.

“It means to me that things are broken,” Curtis explained. “They need help, we all need help. We’re all in the same boat.”

That’s partly why she and several other testified Thursday morning in favor of Senate Bill 233, that would require DCS to outline foster parents’ rights and responsibilities.

“As a foster parent, a bill of rights, if we have something like this, we can all work together. Not in an adversarial way, but in a way to say, ‘Hey, let’s talk about solutions to these issues.” Curtis said.

Curtis said sometimes foster families feel as though they slip through the cracks.

“A lot of times, we are ignored because they have a lot of other things they are doing,” Curtis explained. “We acknowledge that as foster parents, they are busy.”

“The relationship between DCS and foster care parents needs some work,” State Sen. Jon Ford, a Republican from Terre Haute, said.

Ford, along with State Sen. Ron Grooms, a Republican from Jeffersonville, and State Sen. Mike Bohacek, a Republican from Michiana Shores, want those relationships rebuilt.

They came up with the bill of rights idea this summer. Ford says the document is modeled after similar laws in 16 other states and would include things like promising no discrimination.

“Also, making sure the parents get training, just basic things that are in this,” Ford said.

It’s a step in the right direction, according to former foster mom Kristi Cundiff, of Terre Haute, with the Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents group.

“We have the right to know when family team meetings are,” Cundiff explained. “Just to be another voice for the child. We’re the ones that spend the most time with the child.”

The bill heads to the Senate floor for a full vote sometime next week.

Ford said he is hopeful the bill will pass out of the committee, pointing to several other lawmakers that he says have signed on.

He anticipates bipartisan support.