Two DCS, Foster Parent Bills Ceremonially Signed Into Law

The new laws aimed at improving lives of Indiana's abused and neglected children will go into effect July 1, 2019.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (seated, center right) ceremonially signs Senate Enrolled Act 1 on Thursday, June 14. Photo via Indiana House Republican Caucus.

(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Indiana’s Department of Child Services and Hoosier foster parents will get help protecting the state’s most vulnerable children.

On Thursday, Governor Eric Holcomb, DCS director Terry Stigdon, and lawmakers held ceremonial signings of several bills. Two of the bills, Senate Enrolled Act 1 and House Enrolled Act 1006, will make changes at DCS. They each go into effect July 1, 2019.

“DCS has been working tirelessly to make significant changes across the state to continue improving the lives of those we are honored to serve,” Stigdon said. “We want all Hoosiers to know we are doing everything we can to help promote positive outcomes and deliver on our mission by helping the right child at the right time in the right way.”

The agency has been troubled in recent years with more abuse and neglect cases and frequent employee turnover. An independent review of DCS last year identified heavy workloads for caseworkers, largely blamed on an increase in abused and neglected children largely attributed to the drug abuse epidemic.

SEA 1 provides better in-home placement for foster children. In addition to providing greater support for foster care families, the law will allow DCS to keep children in needs of services, or CHINS, in the most family-like setting possible by letting caseworkers exercise due diligence to identify all adult relatives and adult siblings who may be considered for out-of-home placement. It also permits DCS to waive the limit on the number of foster children who can be placed in a single foster home under certain circumstances.

The law makes changes to adoption consent, allowing children of adults convicted of serious crimes such as murder, rape or molestation to be adopted without the consent of their biological parent.

Foster parents of guardians will be given new abilities to intervene in certain DCS cases, such as the termination of a parent-child relationship or a child in need of services.

More than 9,000 children are in Indiana’s foster care system.

HEA 1006 aims to help find and keep quality workers at the state's Department of Child Services Under the new law, DCS’ caseload standard will be updated to align with the best practices set by the Child Welfare League of America. The one-hour response time for caseworkers has been increased to two hours.

The new law also extends the deadline for DCS to send assessment updates to reporters from 30 to 45 days to allow for more complete reporting. It also extends the age older foster youth can receive collaborative care services from 20 to 21.

Holcomb said Stigdon has supported meaningful policy and operations changes at the child welfare agency.

“Under Terry’s leadership, the Department of Child Services has taken action to improve in several key areas, garnered positive results and most importantly, served children in need of services and their families,” said Holcomb.

A change in protocols is not the only aid coming to DCS. Indiana’s new two-year budget provides $500 million in new funding. The money will help the agency keep new caseworkers hired during a temporary funding boost by Holcomb in 2018.

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