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Fostering hope: House lawmakers, IARCA partner to tackle foster home shortage

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In Indiana, the number of children in the foster care system is nearly double the number of foster homes available to take them in. To support young people in need, the Indiana House of Representatives is partnering with the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy (IARCA) during the 2018 legislative session to raise awareness of the growing problem. 

House legislators and IARCA are launching a social media campaign using the hash tag #FosterHopeIndiana and introducing a new website, FosterHopeIndiana.org, that connects Hoosiers with opportunities to learn about foster care. Cathleen Graham, executive director of IARCA, says the partnership is all about hopefulness. 

“Between our agencies and (Department of Child Services) efforts, we were able to license 500 more foster families last year, but there are thousands of children coming into care. We made a great effort, but it doesn’t meet the need, and we are concerned when small children are living in an emergency shelter and not a family-based setting,” Graham said. “So often people hear about abuse and neglect and all the negative things that have happened to these children. We want to show that with the right foster or adoptive family, there is hope for these children’s future.”

Many foster agencies attempt to match children with families that match their cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. In Indianapolis, that has been challenging.

“We need families who can work with children from all ages, abilities and cultures, because it’s always more comfortable to be with a family that is closer to the birth family’s culture,” said Graham. “Indianapolis’ community is more challenging because there are so, so many children in need that they are looking for the first family with a bed for the child at night.”

More than half of the children in the foster care system have a parent with substance abuse issues. Rep. Vanessa Summers, D–District 99, said she would like to see equal emphasis on treatment for all of the addictions Hoosier families face.

“The opioid issue’s roots are in prescription drugs. Your doctor gives you a prescription drug, then he takes you off of it, then you are dependent and go down a rabbit hole. You need to have community workers on the ground who are equipped to recognize addiction in a family and how it can affect them,” said Summers. “At a town hall meeting, somebody in the audience pointed out that the opioid situation is bad, but African-Americans are still on crack or meth. I want people to look at all of these addictions equally, because no one addiction is greater than the next, and they all devastate families.”

Summers said she would like to see more families willing to stand in the gaps as relatives try to get themselves back together after addiction.

Graham said the new partnership is a call to action for the community to support young people in need.

“We are hoping for even more families to come forward, and we are asking communities, including faith-based communities, to see the value in and support foster and adoptive families,” said Graham. “At the press conference, a former foster child named AJ shared how his adoptive family provided him with educational opportunities, and a place to live, and how they were important to his success in life. We want that for more children.”

House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis, stands with 11-year-old AJ Young, adopted son of Karen and Weston Young of Indianapolis, as he talks about the importance of all children having a family to call their own. (Photo/Submitted)

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