TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Foster parents are urging lawmakers to raise state standards to keep Hoosier kids safe.
"There's a lot of confusion as to why common sense and the best practice model isn't being followed right now."
Lawmakers are listening. Twelve new bills are being worked on right now ahead of next session.
Wabash Valley foster mom and advocate, Kristi Cundiff says change is needed and these bills could have a significant impact on how the state handles foster kids.
Cundiff is the CEO of Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents. She has been meeting with Indiana lawmakers to ensure parents like her have the access and tools they need to protect the children in their care.
Cundiff says, "They [lawmakers] want to know what the solution is. What can we do? What do we have to pass to solve this problem to keep children safe in Indiana?"
Cundiff and other foster parents met with State Senator Jim Merritt in Indianapolis earlier this week. The group is pushing for First Right of Choice legislation. It would give foster families the opportunity to take a child back if they re-enter the system.
State Senator Merritt shared a live video on Facebook after the meeting to explain why the legislation is needed.
"If you are a foster parent of a child: a baby, and the birth mother becomes eligible, if you will, or ready to take the child back, if for some reason there's a failure there, the original foster parent does not get the child back. They just have to get back in line and we have to change that."
Cundiff says, "It creates less trauma on that child when you're removing them for a second, third or fourth time, or multiple times that they feel like they're just going back to a family that they're familiar with."
Foster parents are also backing a bill that would give them say at a child's court appearance. It would allow them to fill out a Foster Parent Court Report. The document would be included in a child's record and presented to the judge.
Cundiff says, "It's an accountability piece but it's also a voice for foster parents that they've never had in court."
She adds, right now judges and prosecutors primarily get information through the Department of Child Services.
"They only know what's being reported to them and you have a child who spends eighty percent of their life with a foster parent day by day by day but we're not hearing from who they're spending all their time with."
Cundiff says she is optimistic real change could happen this year with bipartisan support at the statehouse. Lawmakers head back to work in January.
The Foster Parent Bill of Rights is almost complete, according to Cundiff. A law was passed last session requiring its creation.
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