Keeping siblings, families together

Written by emallers on January 18th, 2019

At the start of the new year, lawmakers returned to the Statehouse to begin working on critical issues impacting Hoosiers. I’m excited about many of the topics being discussed, but my top priority continues to be helping children in the foster care system. We should be doing everything in our power to protect children in foster homes and take every step to limit potential trauma during this transition.

Over the last several years, I talked with families, children and organizations from across the state to find ways to improve Indiana’s foster care system and adoption process. Last year, I authored a law increasing accountability and transparency during the fostering and adoption processes. To build off that progress, this year I authored legislation to ensure siblings are kept together and placed with available family members when possible. 

This is an issue close to my heart because as a young child, I was placed in a group home after my birth father, who frequently abused my mother, siblings and me, forced my mother to leave with him at gun point. Until my mother was able to escape and return home, I stayed in the group home. To this day, I still remember how frightened I was during that time. Because of my background, I am working hard to prevent children from having similar experiences.

Right now, the Indiana Department of Child Services works to place children with relatives or other custodial parents whenever possible; however, brothers and sisters can still be separated when a single home does not have enough room to take in every child. Under my proposal, DCS would work with juvenile courts to make every effort to place children in a relative’s home, while also considering placing a child in a home their brother or sister is already staying in. If this is not possible, a child would then be placed in the care of a foster parent. By taking these additional steps, we can help ensure a child’s needs are met and limit additional distress.   

This effort could go a long way in making a child feel safe and secure during an unknown and difficult situation. In many cases when brothers and sisters are separated in the foster care system and later adopted, they often lose contact with each other. Limiting the emotional distress can increase the chances of a successful placement in a foster home, and siblings who are placed in a home together often have a higher likelihood of being adopted together. Strong family ties are vital to the well-being of a child.    

This is just one of many important bills being considered to help Hoosier foster children. I will continue working diligently to help children find a safe and loving place to call home. To track bills as they move through the process and watch hearings online, visit Please share any input with me on issues impacting the state by emailing me at or calling 317-234-3827, and sign up to receive my regular e-newsletter updates at


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