Foster families play a vital role in the lives of children in need. With more than 23,000 Hoosier children in foster care, new laws were recently enacted to increase the number of safe homes, clearly outline the rights of foster parents and help students in foster care succeed academically.

There are twice as many children in Indiana’s foster care system than there are available homes, in many cases due to the state’s drug epidemic and removal of more children from dangerous environments. As a result of this growing need for foster families, a new law allows foster parents to welcome up to six children in approved homes, helping young Hoosiers receive the support they need and keeping siblings together.

In an effort to provide foster parents a stronger voice, a new law establishes a foster parent bill of rights. The Department of Child Services will form a group of foster parents, child-placing agencies and other experts in foster care services to work together to clearly define the rights and responsibilities of foster parents.

Nationally, 56 percent of children in foster care graduate from high school, and only 3 percent graduate from college. The state is working to develop tools to help students in foster care succeed. A new law tasks the Department of Education, DCS and the State Board of Education with preparing an annual report on the educational outcomes of students in foster care. The law will help make teachers aware of students’ circumstances so they can better address their individual needs.

Every child deserves and requires a safe environment to grow and learn. These new laws will help foster children and families succeed.

Follow #NewIndianaLaws on social media and our blog series for more highlights of laws enacted in the 2018 legislative session.