GREENSBURG — One in eight Indiana kids in foster care has been waiting four or more years for adoption.

Continuing the in-depth examination of issues and statistics put forth in the 2019 Indiana Youth Institute Kids Count Data Book, Hoosier kids face a desperate need for foster homes and adoptions. As the opioid epidemic leads to more and more children being removed from their homes, the need for safe, supportive places for them to go becomes increasingly important.

For the children, being separated from their home, family, and everything familiar is likely to be traumatizing, more so when the separations are unexpected or prolonged.

In 2017, there were 31,042 Hoosier children in foster care, a 38 percent increase from just five years before. Nearly half of all children in foster care are between the ages of 5 and 13, but only 34 percent of children placed in foster care a placed with relatives. One in five children in foster care has experienced more than two placements. Of the more than 30,000 children in foster care in 2017, there were 1,824 adoptions through the Indiana Department of Child Services.

When considering becoming a foster parent, one must really only answer two questions: Do I have a place for this child? And can I love this child as my own?

While reunification is possible for some of these children, all of them need a safe place to stay until their fate is determined. When considering becoming a foster parent, one must really only answer two questions: Do I have a place for this child? And can I love this child as my own? If one can say yes to both, they can likely work out the rest along the way.

There are numerous resources available for information about foster care and the requirements. To learn more, visit www.in.gov/dcs or call DCS and speak to someone about foster parent licensing.

Grandparents as parents

Another trend with child placement is grandparents as parents, raising children with no involvement from the child’s parent. From a low of 17.5 percent in 2013, the percentage of Hoosier kids living with a grandparent has increased to 23.9 percent in 2017. While being placed with family is shown to help reduce trauma, maintain family bonds, and increase a sense of belonging, in many cases, the love grandparents feel for the children simply isn’t enough.

“Although grandparents are often willing to care for the children in their families, they may face additional emotional and financial challenges,” the Data Book states. “Because many grandparents are not licensed in the foster care system, they may not be eligible for the same services and financial support as licensed foster parents.”

Of the grandparents responsible for the health and well-being of their grandchildren, 41.2 percent are age 60 or older. For elderly people who were not planning to raise a child so late in life, financial plans can be thrown askew. Among the grandparents serving as parents in Indiana, 42.6 percent of them receive Social Security income, cash public assistance, or food stamp benefits. Overall, 21.7 percent of the children living with grandparents are living in poverty.

Teen birth rates

Teen birth rates per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17 in Indiana and Decatur County continued to fall in 2017. The rate was 12.1 in Decatur County in 2014. By 2017, that number had fallen to 8.9, matching the state average. Decatur County is ranked 35th among the state’s 92 counties. According to the Data Book, the teen birth rate has been cut in half over the past decade and is currently at its lowest rate ever recorded. Neighboring counties Jennings (46.1 percent) and Rush (42.3 percent) are among the state’s 10 highest teen birth rates.

Teen pregnancy has been associated with negative consequences for both the teen parents and their children. As they are young and lack the experience to secure high-paying jobs, teen parents tend to be more socio-economically disadvantaged than their peers.

Young families

Young families in Indiana face challenges their older peers typically do not. Young parents who had children between the ages of 18 and 24 tend to face obstacles to their abilities to earn, learn, and raise a family, the Data Book states. To help combat this, communities can support and promote opportunities for education and employment, both of which serve to help young families.

© 2019 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.