Editorial: Lauer child safety bills respond to urgent need | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Too many children in Indiana are victims of abuse and neglect at home, requiring state intervention.

In these tragic and life-altering situations, foster parents — most often relatives but sometimes otherwise qualified families who answer a calling to help — are crucial. Foster parents provide a home for children who have been taken from theirs out of concern for their safety and well being.

This often is an anxious, uncertain time for children and for foster parents. Credit Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, with realizing there is work to be done in this area, and for taking steps to improve the situation.

Speaking last week at a Legislative Mid-Session event at The Commons alongside area Reps. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, and Jennifer Meltzer, R-Shelbyville, Lauer discussed two bills he authored this session that he said would improve conditions for vulnerable children and “getting them adopted quicker.”

“We heard testimony of families, foster families, taking years to adopt their kid,” Lauer said. “And we want to really shorten that, make it quicker and easier.”

While courts must respect the parental rights of biological parents, we believe justice demands that scales must more clearly tip in favor of children who are victims of abuse and neglect, and for whom adoption is a likely outcome. The bills Lauer has championed with bipartisan support would do so.

  • House Bill 1310 focuses on getting children who are in foster care to permanency faster while also adding protections for foster families to guard against retaliation. When both foster children and foster parents are in situations where adoption appears to be a likely outcome, foster parents ought to have a greater voice in the permanency plan for that child. That’s something that foster families have been advocating for years, and, in a nutshell, that’s what this bill seeks to do.
  • House Bill 1101 would establish safe baby courts as problem-solving courts that would have special jurisdiction in cases involving children age 3 and younger who are victims in allegedly abusive or neglectful circumstances. State data shows children in this age range are likeliest to suffer abuse and neglect in the home, so these courts could give a deserved focus to these children in need of services and termination of parental rights cases.

Both of these bills sailed through the Indiana House with unanimous votes, and both are awaiting further action in the Indiana Senate. We see no reason why these bills should not likewise receive broad bipartisan support in the Senate and be signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Lauer, a member of the House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, is showing leadership on this issue by standing up for foster families. For years, many have expressed concerns that they are not heard by state policymakers, courts or the Department of Child Services.

These bills alone will not cure those concerns, but they are steps in the right direction. We applaud Lauer for crafting commonsense proposals that could do a lot of good for a lot of vulnerable children. They can use all the protection and assurances the state can provide that their best interests are being served.

The (Columbus) Republic is a sister newspaper to the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].


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