Indiana families push for ‘foster parent bill of rights’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Foster families from around the state are supporting legislation that would create a "foster parent bill of rights."

Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, authored Senate Bill 233. If passed, the bill would require the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) to create a committee of foster parents, child-placing agencies and other experts to write the bill of rights.

The bill comes as DCS faces increased scrutiny after the director resigned from her post and expressed grave concerns about the safety of children.

Foster parents like Carrie Upchurch say they often feel left out of the conversation when it comes to a child's future.

Upchurch spends a lot of her time watching over her family, which right now includes her 12-year-old biological son, three foster children and two adopted children.

"We’ve had 34 placements in five years," Upchurch said. "So, every baby and every kid that comes through our door is my kid and I would treat them no different."

She said she feels limited when it comes to her role as a foster mom.

"At the end of the day, we have no rights," Upchurch said. "Foster parents are on the front lines. We do every day, 24/7, all the care, doctors appointments and everything. We need protections and we need help."

Upchurch said that is why she supports SB 233. If the bill passes, DCS would be required to distribute the bill of rights to all foster parents and make it available on the agency's website.

Upchurch says she has connected with other foster parents through the Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents Facebook page and learned there are many who do not know their rights.

"People will know their rights," Upchurch said. "To be educated on that would definitely be a big step."

Ford said he heard these concerns from foster parents he met with last summer.

"Some of the parents want to be involved in the plan, want to know some of the history of the children," Ford said. "And right now, they don’t feel DCS is providing that to them. They’re dealing with these kids day in, day out, they should have a vote in the plan of this."

FOX59 reached out to DCS about this bill and a spokesperson sent this statement:

"Foster parents are a very important part of our system and the care and commitment they provide children is a crucial part of families achieving permanency. DCS and the child-placing agencies we work with strive to do what we can to provide foster parents with the resources and support needed to best care for the children placed in their homes."

The bill is scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 18.