TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI)- Senators overwhelmingly approved a bill that would change how the foster care program operates in Indiana.
Senate Bill 1 would allow the Department of Child Services to find a new or permanent home for foster children more quickly. It would also allow those in foster care to receive services until they're 21-years-old.
We've introduced you to Kristi Cundiff before. She's the CEO of Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents. Earlier this week she testified at a House committee. She's pushing for foster parent rights, ultimately giving them a stronger voice.
Cundiff was a licensed foster parent for five years.
"They're just as important to me as the children that I gave birth to," Cundiff said. "It wasn't ever an issue of do we want to help children. Instead, it was if we wanted to help children."
She's fostered more than 30 children in her lifetime. Today, Cundiff has her hands pretty full with a household of four biological children as well as 10 children she adopted out of foster care.
Family means everything to Cundiff.
"We cannot walk backward into our future," Cundiff added.
Over the years, Cundiff has made herself known at the statehouse, advocating for change in Indiana's Welfare System.
She says she believes the Department of Child Services needs to do a better job at building relationships with foster families.
"We have a problem and we have to fix it," Cundiff said.
Senate Bill 1 would give the DCS a minimum of 12 months to track down family members of a child in foster care. It would also allow foster children who have left the system to reunite with previous foster families once put back into foster care.
"This bill will be just really huge for our state and I think that it's a step in the right direction," Cundiff said.
Senate Bill 1 would give foster parents a voice in court.
"It's necessary for foster parents to have rights in a courtroom and have rights in a child's life," said Cundiff. "They're the ones that spend the majority of time with the children, yet they have the least amount of voice."
The bill will have a third reading on Monday. If the governor signs the bill, it could go into effect on July 1. The next session would begin next year.