Foster parents meet with state senators to discuss DCS issues

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Foster parents from across Indiana were invited to the statehouse Monday to discuss issues facing the Indiana Department of Child Services with lawmakers. Many of these families are closely tracking the progress of an assessment of the agency after the former director expressed grave concerns about the safety of children in the state's care.

Some of the parents who open their homes to the most vulnerable children are speaking out about their concerns in hopes of inspiring action from legislators.

Pamala Owens made the trip to the statehouse from Madison County, where the opioid crisis is driving more children into foster care. She has adopted several of her foster children and believes it is important for lawmakers to hear directly from families.

"They see it on governmental level," Owens said. "They don’t get to see the personal side, the personal touch. Looking out into audience and seeing children’s faces is huge."

Governor Eric Holcomb also attended the event for foster families and said gaining insight from this group is crucial to improving the child welfare system.

"I want to know the good, the bad and the ugly," Holcomb said. "Give me the facts so we can fix what needs to be fixed."

At the end of 2017, Holcomb responded to a scathing resignation letter from the former DCS director, Mary Beth Bonaventura. In the letter, Bonaventura said she feared lives will be lost if issues within the agency are not addressed. Holcomb brought in an Alabama group to do a full assessment of DCS. Members of the group have already interviewed foster parents as part of the review.

"It was a 90 minute interview," said Kristi Cundiff, a foster parent from Terre Haute who leads a group called Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents. "The assessor took a lot of notes. We wanted to be heard. That’s all we can ask is to be heard."

Meantime, some lawmakers are considering the creation of a study committee to review the findings of the full DCS assessment when it’s done. Senate Resolution 14 would bring the legislative body into the process to determine whether any action is needed to fix the problems within DCS. The resolution was heard in committee Monday morning. A vote could happen in two weeks.

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