INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Department of Child Services released a new report that said the state has over 23,000 Hoosier children who need a foster home. The number is up nearly three thousand compared to this time a year ago.
A spokesperson with DCS said there are many reasons why her office will remove children from their homes, but Brenda Chapin, the vice president of program and administration with The Villages of Indiana, said her staff has seen the increase tied to the state's battle with drugs.
"Over the past year, especially, we've seen a dramatic increase in the need for foster homes," she said. "So many children are being removed from their homes due to the Opioid crisis that is currently happening in our state."
DCS numbers also backed up Chapin's statement which showed 52 percent of children removed from their home are removed due to alcohol or substance abuse.
The state and fostering agencies prefers children taken by DCS to be placed with other relatives, but roughly 40 percent have no one else to go to and that's when The Villages of Indiana steps in.
"I want a home for every child that comes through our agency," said Chapin. "One person, one family can make a difference. That one family or one person can look very different."
Last month, Chapin's office had 350 referrals, but was only able to place 32 children into foster homes. The organization works with 240 licensed foster parents across the state.
"Our need is pretty tremendous. We like to say that we need all different types of families because we have all different types of kids. Matching the right child to the right home is very important to us. We want the children to have their needs met by the right type of family or person."
Chapin's office holds informational sessions for prospecting foster parents, as well as training classes for Hoosiers to get their license to take in foster children.
Nearly two years ago, Alyssa Newerth went to her first class to learn more about becoming a foster parent.
"I've been a foster parent for 18 months and I've had five children in my home," said Newerth.
The Indianapolis native said she remembered taking the classes to get certified. There was paperwork and applications, but the work was manageable.
"It's something I've always thought I would be able to do if I was in a place in my life where I thought I could open up my home to a child. I've always wanted to," Newerth added.
The work took a few months to complete the process, but once Newerth was certified a foster child was in her home within a week.
"Being a foster parent is hard work, but being a parent is hard work. If being a parent isn't hard work then you aren't doing it right," said Newerth, who has no plans of stopping her work with Hoosier children.
Additional informational sessions is how The Villages of Indiana will try to curb the state's rise in foster children needing a home.
"We've increased the number of informational nights that we've been holding across the state so people who are interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent can come to those sessions to learn more information and find out if fostering is for them," said Chapin.
The Villages of Indiana is hosting informational sessions at their offices located at 3833 N. Meridian Street on:
- Tuesday March 7 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- Monday March 13 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- Monday March 20 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- Monday March 27 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.