Indiana’s escalating opioid epidemic is significantly impacting the state’s most vulnerable. Thousands of children, by no fault of their own, are victims of this crisis. As opioid abuse rises, so does the number of kids in the foster care system. According to the Department of Child Services, the number of children in out-of-home care jumped from 13,811 in September 2015, to 17,214 just two years later. With the demand for foster families in Indiana reaching an all-time high, we need to find ways to help these children in need.

Nearly twice as many children are in the foster care system than there are available foster homes, and more than half of these children have a parent with substance abuse issues. These children are in need of safe and stable environments where they can feel loved and nurtured, with the ultimate goal being to reunify them with their birth families. However, in some situations, reunification with the birth family is not possible, and then the children are in need of being adopted.

Many Hoosiers have already opened their hearts and homes to foster children. Others may be considering it, but it may not be the right time. When it comes to foster children, there are a few ways to help, including becoming a foster parent, adopting or assisting foster families.

There are some misconceptions about being a foster parent that need to be cleared up. For instance, you don’t have to be married, rich or own a home. In Indiana, foster parents do have to be licensed by the Department of Child Services, and the list of requirements for licensure is not that daunting. You need to be 21 years of age and pass a criminal history background check, as well as meet certain standards listed at

While private adoption is always an option, Indiana offers an adoption program known as the Special Needs Adoption Program. Adoptive parents in this program can be single, married or divorced. The children eligible for adoption come in all ages and races, with the majority being between the ages of 11 to 16. Another large group of children waiting for adoptive families are sibling groups. A benefit of adopting through SNAP is a significantly lower cost associated with the program when compared to private adoptions.

At, you can meet and learn the stories of the nearly 150 children waiting at any given time to be adopted.  

While foster parenting or adopting isn’t for everyone, we can all do something to help. Foster families need all the support they can get, and members of the community can lessen the burden. If you know a foster family, offering to help with daily chores, cooking a meal, assisting with homework or even mowing the lawn can be a life saver.

There are also many opportunities to volunteer by becoming a mentor or participating with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Local foster care agencies also need help with events and fundraisers.

Donations also go a long way with helping foster children. Most children in foster care arrive at their first placement with little to nothing in their possession. Needed items include diapers, wipes, bottles, hats, mittens, books and clothes. To children, a blanket and stuffed animal can be very comforting. Because of the nature of the situation where foster children have nothing of their own, these items should be new. In Hamilton County, donations can be taken to The Villages of Indiana, Inc., located at 802 Mulberry Street.

During the 2018 legislative session, the Indiana House of Representatives will be partnering with the Indiana Association for Resources and Child Advocacy Institute for Excellence  in order to “Foster Hope for Future Generations” and encourage Hoosier families to foster, adopt or support foster families in their communities. The Villages is a member organization of IARCA, which supports the foster care system in Indiana by helping families and children in need. The nonprofit organization serves over 4,600 children every day in foster homes, group homes and treatment facilities while working closely with DCS to improve the lives of children.

For those fostering children, thank you for making a difference. For others, please consider how you can help the thousands of Hoosier children who are in need.

Kathy Kreag Richardson is a Republican State Representative from District 29, which includes Noblesville, and has served in the legislature since 1992. She also is the elections administrator for Hamilton County. You may contact her at