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Latest DCS Fix Focuses on Foster Parents

Bill seeks to give foster families a voice, get long-delayed cases moving

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Foster parents would get more say in court under a bill headed for the Senate next week.

The Senate could vote next week on a bill to let foster parents alert the court when a parental rights case has been in limbo for more than 15 months. That's supposed to be the time limit now, but attorney and foster parent Joseph Delamater says many cases drag on longer than that, especially if a blood relative isn't identified until late in the process.

Delamater says he would have preferred an earlier version of the bill, allowing foster parents to ask the court directly to resolve a case if the Department of Child Services is dragging its feet. He was part of a parade of foster parents who told the Senate Family and Children's Services Committee they've been frustrated by long delays which make it harder to give kids a permanent home.

Salem Republican Erin Houchin's bill also allows foster parents to submit a report to the court with their own observations and recommendations. Houchin argues foster parents are among the most knowledgeable people about the children in their care, but court rules against judges receiving information outside of a formal hearing mean they can't easily communicate what they know. Foster parent Heidi Curtis told the Senate Family and Children's Services Committee she once wrote a report and tried to give it to a court-appointed investigator in a hearing, only to have the investigator put her hands in the air as if to say, "Don't give that to me."

The bill would also move a child's original foster family to the top of the list to take him again if he's taken away from his parents a second time.

The committee unanimously endorsed the bill.

The House has already passed a bill aimed at reducing caseloads. And Governor Holcomb has requested a $286 million budget boost to help DCS hire and keep enough caseworkers to keep up.

(Photo: China Photos/Getty Images)

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