Bill to help find permanent homes for children advances

A local legislator’s bill to help vulnerable children find permanent homes is heading to the governor’s desk.

According to the office of State Rep. Ryan Lauer, a Columbus Republican, the bill would broaden the categories under which a neglected or abused child’s safety and welfare would override a drive to reunite families. Under existing law, the Indiana Department of Child Services prioritizes family reunifications except for a narrow group of situations such as a parent who has been convicted of murder, battery or neglect.

Lauer said that the exceptions list currently does not include parents who are registered as a sex or violent offender or who sexually abused their children.

Lauer said the bill would allow courts to bypass reunification in extreme cases so that the child can be moved to a safe and permanent home more quickly.

In addition to exceptions for violent or sexual offenders, and for those who sexually abused their children, the bill would also allow exceptions if the child has already been the subject of repeated cases where a child is in need of services.

The bill has been approved by the state Senate and now needs the governor’s signature.