Lauer’s bill on child reunification planning advances to Senate

Photo provided Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, is shown at a Statehouse hearing.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill authored by Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, that seeks to help abused and neglected children who are removed from their parents find a permanent home more quickly if reunification with their parents is not possible.

The bill, which cleared the House in a 92-0 vote on Tuesday, would require the Indiana Department of Child Services to develop an alternative plan to find children who have been removed from their parents due to abuse and neglect a permanent home.

The alternative plan, which would be made alongside a plan to reunify the child with their parents or guardians, would be developed if the child has been removed from the parents’ or guardians’ the home for 12 out of 22 months of the case.

Currently, the department is not required to have a secondary permanency plan in place alongside the initial reunification plan in these types of cases.

“While the goal is typically reunifying a child with their parent or guardian, sometimes it’s not in the best interest of the child,” Lauer said in a statement. “In these situations, children can wait for a year or more in temporary care until their case is resolved. At issue here is when a court determines reunification isn’t possible, the child faces longer wait times – sometimes months – in foster care while a secondary plan to find a permanent home is developed. Lots of kids fall into this category and it’s unfairly delaying their ability to be placed in a permanent, loving forever home.”

As of Wednesday morning, the bill was pending in the Senate. Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, is one of the sponsors of the bill in the Senate.