Foster parents fight for bill of rights

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

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

Heidi Curtis enjoys being the foster mother of three,

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

The Department of Child Services is facing its own set off challenges right now. The Governor recently appointed a new director, after the former director quit last month. That former director wrote a scathing letter critical of Indiana’s Governor.

“It means to me that things are broken,” Heidi 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 D.C.S to outline foster parent’s rights and responsibilities.

Heidi Curtis said, “As a foster parent 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 sometimes, foster families feel like they slip through the cracks.

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

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

Terre Haute Republican State Senator Jon Ford, Republican State Senator Ron Grooms, from Jeffersonville, and Republican State Senator, Mike Bohacek, from Michiana Shores, want those relationships rebuilt. They came up with the bill of rights idea this summer. Modeled after similar laws in 16 other states, Ford says the document would include things like promising no discrimination.

State Senator Jon Ford explained, “Also, making sure the parents get training, just basic things that are in this.”

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 meeting are,” Cundiff explained. “Just to be another voice for the child. We’re the ones that spend the most time with the child.”

It is something Heidi Curtis said is a move forward for foster children.

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

Ford said he is very hopeful it’ll pass out of the committee, pointing several other lawmakers that he says have signed on.

He anticipates bipartisan support for the bill.

To learn more about the bill, click here https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2018/bills/senate/233

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