INDIANAPOLIS -- A group of foster parents says the state’s child welfare system is in dire need of reform, and is pushing state lawmakers to take action.
Kristi Cundiff and 20 other foster parents met with state senators Tuesday morning about their concerns.
Cundiff is the administrator for the Indiana foster and adoptive parent group, which has 4,700 members.
Foster parents who spoke with Call 6 Investigates say the Indiana Department of Child Services is plagued with staff turnover and inconsistencies with how cases are handled.
Foster families also allege the rights of biological parents are put before child safety, and that many cases drag on and on.
“We do have foster families that have children 4 and 5 and 6 years,” said Cundiff. “These cases just linger on and on and on. We're trying to help the children with that, so they can have permanency in their life."
Parents also expressed concerns about DCS workers not being trained in car seat safety.
“More often than not, the foster families have to show the case workers, the supervisors, and the therapists how to install the car seat and how to install the child into the car seat,” said a foster parent, who did not want to be named out of fear of DCS retaliating. “There's definitely a need for it. I just want to push foster parents, DCS supervisors, therapists, anyone who is going to be transporting a child can receive some sort of training."
The group is also concerned foster parents who work are often getting no help from the state with child care expenses.
“We have foster homes that are sitting empty,” said Cundiff. “They can’t take children because they have to work.”
The group also wants to see trauma training provided to anyone who comes into contact with the foster child.
“The children that come into care are going to have problems,” said Cundiff. “Many of them have developmental delays. We only know the documented abuse. Many times we don’t know the entire story.”
Foster parents say they want to help find solutions rather than just pointing out problems.
They hope their meeting will result in legislation for the upcoming session.
Sen. Ron Grooms (R-Jeffersonville) told Call 6 Investigates he plans to talk to DCS about the foster parents’ concerns.
Senator Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) released a statement to RTV6.
“Today we met with foster parents and those familiar with Indiana’s foster care system, all of whom have experienced unique and difficult situations. As a member on the Senate Committee of Family and Children Services, I, along with Senator Grooms, asked to meet with these individuals to hear about the foster care system from those who know it firsthand, in order to understand how we can help improve the system through legislation during the 2018 session.”
A DCS spokesperson also released a statement in response to foster parents’ concerns.
“The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) exists to intervene when children have been abused or neglected. When the court orders a child under the supervision of DCS and the child cannot remain in their home safely, out of home placement is necessary. We continually work with our licensed foster parents to secure safe out of home placement. We also look to our licensed foster parents to provide feedback on how to improve the process and experience for the children in foster care, including support for the foster parents.”