Niezgodski op-ed: Supporting Hoosier children, it’s plain common sense

Doing the best for our children: that’s what we should all be about in the General Assembly. The Department of Child Services (DCS) is requesting nearly $600 million in new funds over the next two years; however, if it’s only going to be business as usual for DCS, then that’s not good enough for me. It’s time we step up and show our kids that they’re not forgotten. There are many things we can do to support DCS and help our foster and adoptive children this session, and frankly, we must do everything in our power to help our most vulnerable Hoosiers.

Indiana families foster and adopt children because they want to give them permanent, safe and loving homes. When these parents are fostering, they receive subsidy payments to help care for their children; however, once it’s time to adopt, these parents often are not provided the same subsidy by DCS and receive little to no money. These children still need resources, so why is it that when it comes time to adopt, the money disappears as if the state is ready to write these children off?

I have had parents call my office time and again saying DCS is only offering them $1 a day or $2 a day to adopt their kids. When your child’s needs don’t change from fostering to adoption, but the subsidy you receive all but disappears, you might feel stuck – like the state isn’t looking after you. These parents aren’t in it for the money. They need this support because they truly love these children and want to provide for them in every possible way.

This is where my proposal comes in. Senate Bill (SB) 398 would require DCS to provide mandatory adoption subsidies for Indiana foster parents who adopt children with special needs. Foster children with special needs may require access to medical care, special equipment, counseling, tutoring programs, and other, often expensive, treatments. I want to make sure that these kids aren’t being passed over for adoption just because parents wouldn’t have the funds to support them.

My bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Family and Children Services Committee, but because of its fiscal impact, SB 398 also needed to be heard in the Appropriations Committee before moving to the full Senate for a vote. Unfortunately, because of deadline requirements, the bill was not able to be heard in time to be considered. Luckily, there are still avenues to get this proposal passed, and that’s where you can help. The state budget proposal has come over to the Senate and the Appropriations Committee, tasked with reviewing this budget, will have the opportunity to still address this issue. Contact your state senators, and let them know that these children reside in each and every one of their districts. I will continue to work with my colleagues at the statehouse to keep this important proposal alive. With your help, we can make this succeed. Our children deserve it, and we cannot fail them. To me, it’s plain common sense.

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