The state review of Indiana's Department of Child Services was released in June. The data revealed troubling information about the high number of children placed in foster care.
Hoosier children are being placed in foster care at more than twice the national rate. As of May of this year, there were 16,407 Indiana foster kids. That’s a lot of pressure on an already strained foster care system.
We met a Michiana couple that turned to foster care to fill their home with love and laughter. We are only using their first names to protect their identity.
After struggling with infertility, Shawn and Char applied to become foster parents in 2017. Once approved, they were matched with three little sisters who needed a safe place to call home.
“There was abuse and neglect,” said Char. “Things that we know we need to watch out for and be aware of and sensitive to.”
“It's worth it,” said Shawn. “To see their progress they've made over the past year is just amazing.”
Jenn Rasey is a foster care recruiter for The Villages, Indiana’s largest non-profit child and family services agency. She says there's a huge need for foster parents.
“We need the foster homes that are willing to step up and say I’m willing to take care of these kids,” said Rasey. “Parents, get your treatment, get your help and when you're ready you can get your children back.”
She says the children are coming from a bad situation.
“There's abuse. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, kids not getting fed, not getting held, not getting talked to,” explained Rasey. “The list goes on and on. So sometimes it gets overwhelming.”
She says her biggest job is convincing people that they can be a foster parent.
“There's so many myths about being a foster parent,” said Rasey. “I think that's why there's such a huge need. People think the kids are going to come into your home and destroy it or steal from you. And that's really not the case. Just because they've gone through all of this, doesn't mean they're not worthy.”
Among the requirements to become a foster parent:
-you must be at least 21
-pass a criminal background check and a child protection history check
-demonstrate financial stability
-own or rent a home that passes a home safety inspection
“At The Villages, we do not discriminate,” said Rasey. “So you don't have to be married. You can be a single man. You can be a single woman. You can be co-habiting. You can be a same-sex couple. None of that matters, you're going to be a good parent.”
Rasey says while they’re seeing all age groups of children in need of foster homes, there is one group that is of particular concern.
“Teenagers always need homes. They are our hardest to place because people think teenagers, they probably deserve to be in foster care,” said Rasey. “No child deserves that.”
Foster arrangements can last a few months or more than a year.
“Foster parents are doing a great thing,” said Rasey. “They're opening up their homes, knowing a lot of the times, the kids are going back to where they came from. But they do it because they want to help those families stay together.”
Sometimes, in certain situations, fostering just might turn into something permanent. While Shawn and Char may still, someday, have children of their own, shortly after meeting their foster children, they knew they wanted to adopt.
“Now that they know they're going to stay,” said Shawn. “I feel a little excited when we're all together.”
“No matter what happened to them, no matter what they've been through or what they do, how they act, they're not going anywhere,” said Char. “They're not going anywhere because they're bad kids. They're staying because we love them.”
“You gotta go all in. You've gotta give it everything you've got,” said Char. “Because that's what it takes and it's worth it.”
There are many children just like Shawn and Char's girls who are foster kids in need of adoption.
As of just last month, 1,604 Indiana foster children are awaiting adoption. In Michigan, there are approximately 300 foster kids up for adoption.
Indiana Department of Child Services Foster Care Information
574-294-5756 - ask for Jenn Rasey
KidsPeace Foster Care
Benchmark Family Services
Catholic Charities South Bend
Michigan’s Department of Child Services Foster Care Information
Michigan’s Foster Care Navigator
Adopt US Kids Michigan
Bethany Christian Services of Michigan
Catholic Charities Kalamazoo Diocese