In Indiana, nearly twice as many children are in the foster care system than there are available foster homes, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services. More than half of these children have a parent with substance abuse issues – a growing problem due in part to the opioid epidemic. As the demand for foster families in Indiana reaches an all-time high, House lawmakers are finding ways to help children in need.

House Speaker Brian C. Bosma and House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath announced a partnership between the Indiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Association for Resources and Child Advocacy Institute for Excellence during the 2018 legislative session. The nonprofit organization serves over 4,600 children every day in foster homes, group homes and treatment facilities, and works closely with DCS to improve the lives of the children.

About 57 percent of all children entering the child welfare system are newborns through five years of age. Many of these children leave their homes with the clothes they have on or only what they can fit into a trash bag. This fact led legislators and House staff to launch a donation drive to collect needed items, like diapers and blankets, for foster families caring for newborns and infants. On Jan. 24, lawmakers plan to fill diaper bags with donated items during IARCA’s annual day at the Statehouse.

Statistics from DCS show the number of children in out-of-home care jumped from 13,811 in September 2015, to 17,214 just two years later. To help spread awareness and encourage more Hoosiers to consider fostering or adopting, legislators and IARCA launched a social media campaign using #FosterHopeIndiana and a new website, www.FosterHopeIndiana.org, with information for anyone looking for ways to help

The Indiana Heart Gallery, a traveling photo exhibit featuring portraits of children in need of adoptive families, will also be featured outside the House Chamber throughout the legislative session. According to DCS, about 150 children are available for adoption in Indiana at any given time.

Through our partnership with IARCA, we want to encourage more Hoosiers to open their hearts and change a life through fostering or adopting a child in need. If you aren’t able to care for a child, we encourage you to reach out to foster families in your area, as they too, need support and encouragement.